FTSE at best level since 2001

Excitement over a potential takeover deal in the mining sector ensured London shares remained at their best level since the summer of 2001 today.

Excitement over a potential takeover deal in the mining sector ensured London shares remained at their best level since the summer of 2001 today.

The latest record for the FTSE 100 Index, which closed 17.3 points higher at 5846.2, followed hefty gains for a string of blue-chip mining stocks.

The sector was lifted by news that London-listed platinum miner Lonmin had received a takeover approach that may value it in the region of £4bn (€5.9bn).

Six mining stocks featured at the top of the Footsie risers board after days of profit taking left them languishing following a recent strong run.

Anglo American led the pack with a gain of 6% or 123p to 2145p while Antofagasta added 80p to 2115p and Xstrata rose 56p to 1701p.

Northern Rock added to the excitement as shares rose by as much as 10% after the latest round of takeover speculation in the banking sector.

The interest – based on talk of a merger with Bradford & Bingley – cooled towards the end of the session as Northern closed 5% or 50.5p higher at 1150p.

B&B rose 12.75p to 461.5p while another mid-sized operator Alliance & Leicester added 19p to 1099.5p and Royal Bank of Scotland put on 14p to 1786p.

Elsewhere Centrica shares survived the shock of a 22% hike in gas and electricity bills to stand 5p higher at 286p.

The increase was in line with expectations and appeared to give investors some comfort ahead of full-year results from the British Gas owner next week.

The main drag in London came from Daily Mail & General Trust after it decided not to sell regional newspaper group Northcliffe, which analysts had expected to fetch up to £1.5bn (€2.2bn).

But DMGT, which publishes the Daily Mail and the London Evening Standard, said none of the offers for its regionals arm were high enough and said it would keep hold of it after recognising the benefits of a recent restructuring.

Shares in the company fell 13% or 93.5p to 652p and sent other media stocks down, with smaller rivals Johnston Press and Trinity Mirror down 31p to 457p and 18p to 603p respectively.

The mood in the retail sector was less optimistic than across the wider market as a clutch of stocks slipped amid fears the high street faced another sustained spending slowdown.

Casualties included Marks & Spencer, which fell 6.5p to 507.5p, and Dixons owner DSG International – also 2p lower at 172p.

In the second tier, the London Stock Exchange surged 8% or 62.5p to 824p after including a higher dividend and higher return of capital to shareholders in its defence to a hostile takeover approach from Australian bank Macquarie.

The biggest Footsie risers were Anglo American up 123p at 2145p, Northern Rock ahead 50.5p at 1150p, Antofagsta ahead 80p at 2115p and Xstrata up 56p at 1701p.

The biggest fallers were Daily Mail & General Trust down 93.5p at 652p, PartyGaming off 3p at 123p, Kelda Group off 17p at 795.5p and National Grid down 9.5p at 578.5p.

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