FTSE gets lift from property firms

Property companies helped lift the London market today, with real estate investment trust Hammerson setting the pace after takeover speculation.

Property companies helped lift the London market today, with real estate investment trust Hammerson setting the pace after takeover speculation.

The FTSE 100 Index advanced 20.3 points to 6240.3 ahead of the British budget announcement from Chancellor Gordon Brown.

Hammerson was trading at an all-time high, up 62p at 1717p, after analysts pointed to possible bid interest from Unibail and GE Real Estate. Fellow REIT group Land Securities also benefited, up 39p at 2163p.

Elsewhere in the sector, British Land rose more than 1%, or 18p to 1555p, on the back of its £650 million property joint venture with Tesco. The supermarket is to put 21 superstores into the venture to lease back at an initial £29 million a year. Tesco shares were up 2p at 437.75p.

Airline British Airways rose more than 3%, ahead 18.5p at 521.5p, after it said it has possible back-up plans to offset the impact of any “Open Skies” deal between the US and the EU, including offering low-cost fares and business-class promotions.

Banking giant Barclays gained 5p to 707p as investors continued to react to the prospect of an £80 billion tie-up with ABN Amro, although the stock lost some of its earlier drive.

However, other banking groups Bradford & Bingley and HSBC were heavy fallers as the stocks went ex-dividend, meaning shareholders will not qualify for the latest payout. Bradford & Bingley topped the fallers’ board with a loss of 15p to 446.25p, while HSBC was off 14.5p at 883.5p.

Leisure group Whitbread joined them at the top of the board as the stock gave back some of the gains from the previous session after a broker note steered investors away from the group towards other asset rich pub firms. such as Greene King and Marston’s. Shares were down 53p at 1881p. Greene King rose 17p to 1141p while Marston’s was 3p higher at 457p.

Elsewhere, music and radio group Chrysalis lost hold of its early rise after it reported rising revenues during March. Shares steadied at their opening mark of 137p.

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