Corus helps push FTSE into black

Shares in Corus soared 5% today as investors sat back and enjoyed a dramatic bidding war for the Anglo-Dutch steel company.

Shares in Corus soared 5% today as investors sat back and enjoyed a dramatic bidding war for the Anglo-Dutch steel company.

The stock rocketed after the firm backed a £4.9bn (€7.2bn) takeover offer from Brazilian firm CSN, which had trumped a £4.7bn (€7bn) approach from Tata Steel just hours earlier.

A positive trading update from Lloyds TSB added to the overall cheer in the City as the FTSE 100 Index lifted 7.4 points to 6159.8 by the close.

Corus, which was formed out of British Steel in 1999, was up 27.25p to 527.25p as investors hoped that Tata would come back with an improved offer to eclipse the 515p a share tabled by CSN today.

The CSN bid came just hours after Tata increased its offer from 455p a share to 500p a share in an effort to fend off interest from the Brazilians.

Investors were given hope that Tata could return with a better offer when the Indian firm said it was “considering its position” in the light of the CSN bid. Shares are now 80% higher than this time last year.

Lloyds TSB was also on the front foot – up 3p to 558.5p – after it said it was on course for a “very satisfactory” year and indicated it would meet expectations for profits of £3.7bn (€5.5bn).

The update lifted a number of heavyweight rivals, with HSBC ahead 7.5p at 923p and Royal Bank of Scotland up 7p at 1982p. Barclays was down 7p at 723p, but held on to most of the gains seen after rumours of takeover interest from Bank of America on Friday.

Talk of consolidation in the pharmaceuticals sector helped Shire – up 34p to 1065p.

Another major development in the session involved media group SMG after it said it was back in talks with UTV over a possible merger. Shares in SMG rose 3.25p to 60p, while UTV wobbled – down 8.5p at 378p.

Meanwhile, investors in the UK’s largest care home owner Southern Cross welcomed news it was set to meet expansion targets following a new deal to manage five homes. Shares climbed 5p to 303p as the firm also saw its average weekly fee increase 8%.

Beleaguered NHS software company iSoft reported it was in better shape today, despite reporting half-year losses of more than £14m (20.7m).

The group pointed out that its position in the NHS programme had now stabilised following a recent agreement with supplier CSC, while lower overheads contributed to an improvement in its underlying financial performance. The market nodded its approval to send the stock up 6p to 46.75p.

The day’s biggest blue-chip risers were Corus up 27.25p at 527.25p, Rolls-Royce up 16.25p at 443.25p, International Power up 13p at 386.75p and Shire up 34p at 1065p.

The day’s biggest blue-chip fallers were Resolution down 15p at 637.5p, Imperial Tobacco down 36p at 2013p, Legal & General down 2.5p at 157.5p and Cairn Energy down 31p at 2077p.

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