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MARKET REPORT: Fresh wave of takeover bids lights up the City

Takeover fever gripped the market as two major firms targeted competitors while a third found itself in the crosshairs of a bid battle.

Investment manager Abrdn confirmed reports over the weekend that it could gatecrash the plans of online stockbroker Interactive Investor (II) to list on the London Stock Exchange next year.

The firm is in talks to make a bid for II worth over £1.5billion, with a formal offer to be announced within the next two weeks, according to Sky News.

Takeover talk: Investment manager Abrdn has confirmed reports that it could gatecrash the plans of online stockbroker Interactive Investor to list on the London Stock Exchange next year

The news lifted Abrdn shares 3.2 per cent, or 8.2p, to 263.9p.

FTSE 250 property investor Sirius Real Estate was also on the acquisition trail, expanding into the UK market after snapping up office space provider Bizspace for £245million in cash.

Sirius, which focuses more on the German market, said the purchase will increase its rent roll to over £131million. 

To help finance the acquisition, the firm raised £137million by issuing around 105m new shares at a price of 130p each, a 5.8 per cent discount to its closing price last Friday. The shares fell 3.9 per cent, or 5.4p, to 132.6p.

Stock Watch – Yu Group 

MARKET REPORT: Fresh wave of takeover bids lights up the City

Utility firm Yu Group surged higher after it took on thousands of customers from one of its failed rivals.

The group was appointed supplier of last resort by the sector regulator Ofgem after Ampower went bust over the weekend, transferring 8,158 electricity and gas customers on to its books.

Most of Ampower’s clientele were business sites.

The customers are expected to immediately improve the company’s earnings and increase its monthly revenues by over £7.5million.

Yu Group’s shares jumped 15.5 per cent, or 32.5p, to 242.5p in the wake of the news.

Meanwhile, gambling software group Playtech was on the other side of the divide as major shareholder Gopher Investments contemplated a rival bid to a £2.7billion offer from Australian firm Aristocrat Leisure. 

The firm confirmed weekend reports that Hong Kong-based Gopher, which owns 4.97 per cent of the group, is carrying out due diligence with a view to making a possible £3billion bid. Playtech shares bounced 2.5 per cent, or 18p, to 726p.

Elsewhere, THG, also known as The Hut Group, was back in focus following a tirade over the weekend from its embattled founder Matt Moulding. 

In an interview with GQ magazine, Moulding said he regretted listing the company in London, saying the process had ‘just sucked from start to finish’.

The billionaire also indicated that he may take the company private if its share price performance did not improve. His threats, however, did little to convince investors, with THG’s shares down 2.5 per cent, or 5.1p, at 198.7p having risen in early trading.

The FTSE 100 inched down 0.05 per cent, or 3.56 points, to 7300.4 while the FTSE 250 dipped 0.2 per cent, or 56.87 points, at 23539.92.

Uncertainty in the markets came amid mixed economic data out of China, which suggested a potential slowdown in domestic demand. 

One blue-chip riser was cyber-security outfit Darktrace, which rose 12.5 per cent, or 72p, to 649.5p as buyers re-emerged following a bruising few weeks for the share price caused by bearish broker commentary and stock sales from major investors.

British Airways-owner IAG descended 1.5 per cent, or 2.78p, to 177.38p despite the end of US travel restrictions, allowing it to restart flights across key transatlantic routes. 

Other carriers were also in the red, with Easyjet down 1 per cent, or 6.8p, to 650.4p while Ryanair dropped 0.8 per cent, or €0.14, to €17.97.

Shares in mid-cap banking and wealth management firm Investec were up 6.8 per cent, or 471p, at 7443p after it hiked its guidance for the six months to the end of September 2021. 

The group now expects earnings for the period to be between 24.5p and 24.9p per share, up from previous forecasts of between 20.2p and 22.7p.

Cake Box served up a treat for investors after its profits more than doubled. For the six months to the end of September, profits rose 122 per cent year-on-year to £3.7million, while its interim dividend was hiked 35 per cent to 2.5p per share. The shares rose 4.7 per cent, or 18p, to 398p.

Funeral director Dignity posted a 10 per cent decline in profits to £43.4million in the 39 weeks to September 24 amid a 3 per cent fall in deaths year-on-year. 

The group also flagged that it was seeing a decline in its market share for both funerals and cremations. The shares edged up 1 per cent, or 7p to 726p.