Positive gains for FTSE

Takeover activity helped lift the mood on the London market today as plasterboard maker BPB ditched its opposition to being bought by a French rival.

Takeover activity helped lift the mood on the London market today as plasterboard maker BPB ditched its opposition to being bought by a French rival.

BPB was among the highest blue-chip climbers after shaking hands on a deal with Saint-Gobain worth almost £3.9bn (€5.7bn), adding almost 4% to its market value.

Argos owner GUS was another top performer on a day when the FTSE 100 Index lifted 30 points to 5460, mirroring gains by other European markets.

BPB secured the third spot on the Footsie risers table as it brought an end to what had threatened to be the UK's biggest hostile takeover campaign in six years. Shares advanced 28p to 769.5p.

GUS was not far behind after it set December 13 as a date for the demerger of Burberry and published its half-year results. The stock lifted 27p to 877p as higher profits from its Experian credit checking arm cushioned the decline in contributions from its retail businesses.

But the mood across the retail sector was mixed as supermarket chain Tesco fell 5.25p to 307p and Kingfisher lost 1.5p to 214.5p.

Second-tier retailer Mothercare recovered early losses to stand 9.5p higher at 344.5p after profits growth abroad shielded it from the impact of rising costs in the UK.

Gases giant BOC pleased investors by saying it was "looking forward to another year of steady progress" across all its businesses, helping shares add 29p to 1157p despite a 3% fall in annual profits.

But the heaviest Footsie faller was publisher Reed Elsevier which weakened 5%, or 29p to 523.5p, on lower-than-expected revenues from its Harcourt educational unit.

Gambling stocks were under pressure as bookies were left counting the cost of a run of favourable results for punters.

William Hill lost 4% of its value, down 21p to 511p, as it was cautious on profits for 2005 and said its gross win - turnover less winnings paid out to punters - had been broadly flat in the past 18 weeks.

Hilton Group also revealed gross win at its Ladbrokes chain in the UK was down but only to a slight extent. Shares in Hilton fell 3p to 336p as investors hung in for a potential windfall from the sale of its hotels.

The sector's biggest casualty came from outside the top flight, after Paddy Power warned that it no longer expected to hit expectations for operating profits in the wake of a string of poor horseracing results. The stock lost 22%, off €2.93 to €10.38.

In contrast, Virgin Mobile lifted 14p to 309p after it posted better-than-expected results and said it would hit full year targets.

Car dealer Pendragon soared as investors continued to cheer yesterday's news that it had made a £422m (€620m) approach for rival Reg Vardy. The stock rose 11%, up 33.25p to 501p, after gaining 10% during the previous session, helping the FTSE 250 close at an all-time high of 8102.8.

The highest Footsie fallers were Man Group up 78p to 1760p, BG rising 20.5p to 554.5p, BPB up 28p to 769.5p and Xstrata rising 47p to 1357p.

The heaviest fallers were Reed Elsevier off 29p to 523.5p, William Hill down 21p to 511p, Tesco off 5.25p to 307p and Scottish Power down 8p to 565p.

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