Oil stocks help steady FTSE

The London market looked to end the week in positive territory today stoked by a strong performance from oil stocks and takeover activity in the second tier.

The London market looked to end the week in positive territory today stoked by a strong performance from oil stocks and takeover activity in the second tier.

As investors cheered the latest developments in the battle for Associated British Ports, the FTSE 100 Index gained 4.4 points to stand at 5688.5 by lunchtime.

Heavily-weighted oil companies buoyed the top flight. BP lifted 12.5p to 617.5p and Royal Dutch shell rose 29p to 1758p while Cairn Energy topped the risers board with a gain of 101p to 2076p.

Commenting on the stocks, Ian Griffiths, trader at CMC Markets, said: “Deutsche Bank had increased its price target on a host of European oil companies by between 5% and 7%, as the sector still remains buoyant by the high crude prices seen at present.”

Software maker Sage cheered 2.5p to 224.25p following strong results from US giant Oracle which boosted the IT sector.

But British Airways lost half a penny to 345.5p. It followed a slump of 6% yesterday on the news it and other airlines are under investigation by the Office of Fair Trading and US Department of Justice over the cost of air travel. If found guilty, the airlines could face fines of many millions of pounds.

The miners were also dragging on the market, with Vedanta off 35p to 1297 and BHP Billiton down 15p to 985p.

In the second flight, all eyes were on Associated British Ports, the UK’s largest ports operator, after it agreed to an improved £2.8 billion takeover offer from Goldman Sachs.

But rival bidder Macquarie immediately urged AB Ports shareholders to “take no action in response to the revised proposal” as it considered whether to make an alternative offer. Shares in AB Ports lifted 32.5p to 913.5p.

But it was beaten to the top of the risers board by travel stocks boosted by the news that transport company Stagecoach was selling its London bus operations to Australia’s Macquarie Bank for £263.6m (€383m). Shares in Stagecoach lifted 3% or 3.25p to 110.25p.

Go-Ahead was ahead 8% or 143p to 1940p, tracked by National Express up 48.5p to 855p, Arriva up 28.5p to 567.5p, and First Group which lifted 18.75p to 432.75p.

And high street retailer Woolworths gained 2% or 0.75p to 31.75p following a report a private equity group was buying stock in the group in the belief another bid was imminent.

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