A landmark session for the London market ended with a tinge of disappointment today when the FTSE 100 Index closed below the 6,000 threshold.
Enthusiasm that had driven the Footsie to gains of 50 points and its highest level for more than five years started to wane during the afternoon as profit takers moved in.
But the Footsie still closed in positive territory – up 6.2 points higher at 5999.4 – with shareholders in Legal & General and Prudential set for enjoyable weekends after the insurers both racked up gains of 7%.
Legal posted an expectation-busting 43% rise in profits boosted by increased demand for pensions in the UK. The figures left analysts to ponder the chances of the company receiving a takeover bid from overseas as the stock gained 9.5p to 143.5p.
The Pru was also in buoyant mood with gains of 44.5p to 672p as it built on yesterday’s results, while Friends Provident was up 3.25p to 213.5p and Norwich Union owner Aviva strengthened by 23.5p to 850.5p elsewhere in the sector.
But joy at the sale of Vodafone’s operations in Japan wore off during the session and investors used the £8.9 billion deal with SoftBank to bank profits. Vodafone closed a penny lower at 129p despite promising to return £6 billion of the proceeds to its shareholders.
Shares in airports operator BAA fell 1% or 10.5p to 828.5p after it turned down an 810p a share offer from Ferrovial. Its share price has risen sharply from around 640p since rumours of interest from the Spanish firm started circulating last month.
Some of the steam also came off shares in steel maker Corus, down 2p at 83.25p, after delight at the sale of its aluminium business yesterday eased a little.
The biggest corporate story of the day came from the FTSE 250 Index after Body Shop said it had agreed to a takeover by French company L’Oreal.
Shares rose 10% or 28p to 296p and brought a £117 million windfall for founder Dame Anita Roddick and husband Gordon.
It was followed higher by nightclubs operator Luminar as it became the latest bars chain to find itself in the sights of property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz.
On this occasion, the Tchenguiz family trust emerged as part of a consortium considering a move for Luminar, which has a market value of around £450 million. Shares in the chain were up 9%, or 49p to 619p.
But it was a bad day for House of Fraser which saw its share price tumble 10% or 13p to 115p after it revealed takeover talks had come to nothing.
The biggest Footsie risers were Legal & General up 9.5p at 143.5p, Prudential ahead 44.5p at 672p, Aviva up 23.5p at 850.5p and Schroders ahead 31p at 1260.5p.
The biggest fallers were Corus Group down 2p at 83.25p, Kingfisher off 4.75p at 243.25p, Hanson down 13p at 750.5p and Anglo American off 31p at 2035p.