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LONDON MARKET MIDDAY: Aviva takeover talk boosts FTSE 100

Fri, 06th Oct 2023 11:43

(Alliance News) - The FTSE 100 was in the green at midday Friday, boosted by Aviva amid takeover rumours.

The FTSE 100 index was up 30.92 points, 0.4%, at 7,482.46. The FTSE 250 was up 130.77 points, 0.7%, at 17,730.75, and the AIM All-Share was up 1.35 points, 0.2%, at 696.09.

The Cboe UK 100 was up 0.5% at 747.08, the Cboe UK 250 was up 0.7% at 15,435.48, and the Cboe Small Companies was down 0.3% at 13,206.15.

Focus now turns to Friday's nonfarm payrolls data, the official employment report. The reading is expected to show jobs growth of 170,000 in September, easing from 187,000 in August.

"While the slowdown is notable, achieving such a figure would not be disastrous and so the market is likely to take the view that the economy is still resilient and interest rates will stay higher for longer," said AJ Bell's Russ Mould.

The data is released at 1330 BST.

Stocks in New York were called slightly higher ahead of the reading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 index, and the Nasdaq Composite were all called up 0.1%.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2215 at midday on Friday in London, higher compared to USD1.2164 at the equities close on Thursday. The euro stood at USD1.0559, higher against USD1.0526. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY149.01, up compared to JPY148.83.

In the FTSE 100, Aviva rose 10%, as chatter around a potential takeover pleased investors.

Citing "City sources", the Times early Friday said at least two potential suitors are looking closely at London-based Aviva.

Names of potential bidders mentioned include Germany's Allianz SE, Denmark's Tryg AS, and Canada's Intact Financial Corp, the Times said. One of them is mulling a GBP6 per share offer, the newspaper said.

"What might they see in Aviva?" AJ Bell's Russ Mould asked.

"Well, the business is forecast to have strong free cash flow and excess capital and its valuation is cheap. It has slimmed down in recent years to focus on the stronger parts of the group and there is now an opportunity to increase its position in bulk annuities which looks like a more prosperous market thanks to higher gilt yields."

Other FTSE 100 financial stocks were boosted by the talks. Legal & General jumped 4.0%, Barclay and Admiral both were up 1.5% and Lloyds Banking rose 1.4%.

Housing stocks were also up on Friday midday. Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Developments and Persimmon were up 0.8%, 1.4%, and 1.0%, respectively.

UK house prices fell again in September, but the pace of the month-on-month decline slowed, according to the Halifax house price index released on Friday.

Halifax said average house prices in the UK fell by 0.4% in September from August, slowing from a 1.8% decline in August from July. Market consensus cited by FXStreet had expected house prices to have declined by 0.8% on a monthly basis.

In the FTSE, Wetherspoons lost 4.5%.

The Watford, Hertfordshire-based pub and hotel chain swung to a pretax profit before separately disclosed items of GBP42.6 million in the financial year that ended July 31, from a loss of GBP30.4 million the year before.

Total pretax profit was GBP90.5 million, up from a GBP26.3 million profit the year before. The difference between the two measures in both years was mostly finance income, partially offset by property losses.

Chair Tim Martin said the company currently anticipates a "reasonable outcome" for the financial year, subject to its future sales performance.

Elsewhere in the FTSE 250, Man Group jumped 5.0%. Exane BNP raised the London-based hedge fund manager to 'outperform.'

Amongst London's small-caps, Metro Bank rose 10%.

Metro has begun a process to sell a GBP3 billion chunk of its mortgage book to shore up its finances, Sky News reported on Thursday.

The under pressure lender as sized up high street banking neighbours as possible buyers, including Lloyds Banking and NatWest, Sky News reported, citing City sources.

On Thursday, Metro Bank said it "continues to consider how best to enhance its capital resources." In particular, it noted its GBP350 million senior non-preferred notes due in October 2025.

XP Power lost 9.4%.

The manufacturer of power controllers cancelled its second quarter dividend of 19.0p.

XP said it continues to take all necessary internal actions to manage its cost base and cash resources, in order to strengthen the balance sheet in the near term.

Chair Jamie Pike said: "Notwithstanding these short-term challenges, the board believes XP has a positive longer term outlook and we are fully focused on ensuring that the group realises its potential."

In European equities on Friday, the CAC 40 in Paris was up 0.5%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was up 0.7%.

German factory orders rose in August thanks to the computer, electronic and optical products sector, according to Destatis figures.

On a monthly basis, new orders in manufacturing rose 3.9% in August, more than the 1.8% market consensus cited by FXStreet. July's figure was upwardly revised to an 11.3% fall from 11.7%.

"Much of the sharp increase in new orders in August 2023 was due to the performance of the manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products sector," the statistics office explained.

Brent oil was quoted at USD84.14 a barrel at midday in London on Friday, down from USD84.56 late Thursday. Gold was quoted at USD1,824.44 an ounce against USD1,815.53.

By Sophie Rose, Alliance News reporter

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