Date: Tuesday 03 Apr 2012
London's leading shares drifted lower, with little to encourage buyers into the market ahead of the release this evening of the minutes from the March 13th meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, the US Federal Reserve's policy-making committee.
British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) reacted phlegmatically to news that its chairman, James Murdoch, is to quit the role, though he will remain a member of the board.
The development was not a complete surprise, given Murdoch's resignation as Chairman of News International last month, as speculation about his role in the news organisation's phone hacking activities refuses to die down.
"As attention continues to be paid to past events at News International, I am determined that the interests of BSkyB should not be undermined by matters outside the scope of this company," Murdoch said in a resignation letter to the board. He added: "I am aware that my role as Chairman could become a lightning rod for BSkyB and I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organisation."
Murdoch is succeeded as Chairman of BSkyB by Nicholas Ferguson, who was appointed as a director of the company in June 2004 and previously served as Deputy Chairman and Senior Independent Non-Executive Director.
In other board room shenanigans, Alliance Trust's board gave a feisty response to activist investor Laxey Partners' renewed attempt at telling the board how to run the company.
Hedge fund Laxey, which owns 1.7% of Alliance Trust, has called for a number of changes, including the outsourcing of investment management, higher dividends and the opportunity for shareholders to sell their shares to the company at price closer to net asset value per share than the stock is currently trading in the market.
Alliance responded by accusing Laxey of wasting the board's time and being motivated by short-term self-interest rather than the medium and long-term interests of the wider shareholder base.
Aberdeen Asset Management, which is hoping to get the investment manager gig at Alliance should it outsource its portfolio management, was wanted after Morgan Stanley recommended acquiring the shares.
Other broker inspired share price movements included contract caterer Compass, which was about as popular as a stale pork pie after Morgan Stanley cut its rating from 'overweight' to 'equal weight'. The broker did lift its price target, however, from 630p to 670p. Blackrock, a major holder of the stock, lobbed out 8.3m shares of the stock following the downgrade.
Meanwhile, luxury goods brand Burberry got not one but two brokers - Liberum Capital and Investec - singing its praises.
Moving somewhat down market from Burberry, sportswear retailer JJB Sports confirmed it has in recent weeks held discussions with its lending bank and a number of potential strategic partners and investors about raising additional financing for the company.
Oil and gas group Heritage Oil has drilled and flowed gas at a reservoir interval at its Miran West-3 well in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
African Barrick Gold has revised upwards by 0.5m ounces of gold the resource estimate for its Nyanzaga project in Tanzania after working out how to treat the two mineralised zones of the project, Tusker and Kilimani, as a single pit resource.
Cairn Energy is splashing out $450m dollars on Agora Oil & Gas, a firm with North Sea interests and owned by Lord Rothschild's investment trust, RIT Capital Partners. Meanwhile, mining titan Xstrata has sold a majority interest in its Chilean hydroelectric development company to Origin Energy.
In other mergers and acquisitions news, equipment rental group Ashtead has acquired Philadelphia-based peer Topp Construction Services and its related company Precision Steel Works. The two companies have been bought for a total consideration of $33.5m in cash, which included the among paid to settle Topp's net debt at closing.
Brent crude for May delivery fell 10 cents to $125.33 a barrel in London trading.
Sterling slipped below $1.60 against the greenback to $1.5959.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 269.10p +3.86%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,560.00p +2.09%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,207.00p +1.51%
ICAP (IAP) 396.50p +0.94%
Ashmore Group (ASHM) 376.90p +0.86%
Croda International (CRDA) 2,164.00p +0.65%
Next (NXT) 3,060.00p +0.62%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 611.00p +0.58%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 3,248.50p +0.57%
Glencore International (GLEN) 401.40p +0.56%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 26.89p -3.10%
Pearson (PSON) 1,184.00p -3.03%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 32.67p -2.70%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 5,280.00p -2.58%
Barclays (BARC) 230.35p -2.58%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 1,228.00p -2.54%
Man Group (EMG) 130.10p -2.40%
CRH (CRH) 1,268.00p -2.39%
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) 585.00p -1.93%
Aggreko (AGK) 2,232.00p -1.89%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Heritage Oil (HOIL) 152.30p +10.36%
Home Retail Group (HOME) 117.90p +4.52%
Salamander Energy (SMDR) 234.00p +4.23%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 333.20p +4.00%
Premier Oil (PMO) 403.90p +2.96%
JD Sports Fashion (JD.) 792.50p +2.79%
Afren (AFR) 140.50p +2.55%
COLT Group SA (COLT) 107.50p +2.38%
Kenmare Resources (KMR) 51.85p +2.07%
Dixons Retail (DXNS) 19.28p +1.90%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Exillon Energy (EXI) 156.50p -6.85%
Spirit Pub Company (SPRT) 59.50p -5.18%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 67.80p -3.07%
Kentz Corporation Ltd. (KENZ) 473.00p -2.97%
Ophir Energy (OPHR) 510.00p -2.86%
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 518.00p -2.81%
Brewin Dolphin Holdings (BRW) 170.20p -2.46%
Avocet Mining (AVM) 184.10p -2.44%
Carpetright (CPR) 681.50p -2.36%
Redrow (RDW) 126.00p -2.33%
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