Matalan performance offsets poor start for FTSE

Matalan shares jumped 7% today as investors cheered better-than-expected sales figures from the discount retailer.

Matalan shares jumped 7% today as investors cheered better-than-expected sales figures from the discount retailer.

The stock rose to the top of the FTSE 250 Index risers board after the trading revival also offered a potential boost to takeover talks involving founder and chairman John Hargreaves, who owns 53% of Matalan along with his family.

The developments at Matalan were the highlight of an otherwise poor session for the London market, as the FTSE 100 Index fell 21.5 points to 5965.1 by mid-morning.

Cairn Energy was one of the fallers, off by more than 1% as it said production at its Mangala field had been rescheduled to 2009. Shares, which have rocketed in the past three years, were down 32p to 2084p, although some investors sensed a buying opportunity as shares had been down 3%.

Other fallers included Tesco, which eased 8p to 372p, and Sainsbury’s off 5.5p to 355.25p after the British Retail Consortium reported disappointing food sales during a wet August.

British Gas group Centrica topped the risers board as the market returned to speculation that it could attract a possible bid from Russia’s Gazprom. Shares were up 8.25p to 310.75p, a gain of almost 3%.

Housebuilders were being closely watched after a newspaper report said HBOS could follow its takeover of retirement housebuilder McCarthy & Stone with an offer for Wilson Bowden, which is valued at more than £1.5bn (€2.22bn).

Wilson shares were ahead 31p at 1746p, while top-tier stock Persimmon lifted 4p to 1279p and Taylor Woodrow rose 7p to 362.25p in the FTSE 250 Index.

Stanley Leisure was ahead 3% as it was reported that Malaysian shareholder Genting was behind the takeover approach revealed yesterday by the casino operator. Shares rose by a fifth last night and were up 24.5p to 835.5p today.

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