Charles Pretzlik: Ashley blends his interests again

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It was tempting, after our story this morning about Google wanting to tell us all what do with our days, let it write today’s newslist.

However, no Google algorithm could have told us how much fun we would have this afternoon with some of the market’s more colourful personalities.

First, Mike Ashley announced he had bought just over 40 per cent of Newcastle United football club from Sir John Hall and family, and had launched a bid for the rest. Now we know what he wants to do with some of £900m he made from floating Sports World. Is he determined to test the definition of a conflict of interest – or is it just verticle integration? Shortly after the float, he bought 3 per cent of Adidas, which supplies Sports World stores, in which he retains a 57 per cent stake. Now, he is bidding for a team kitted out by Adidas, whose shirts are sold in his shops.

And then you have to laugh a bit at Andrew Regan, the man who would like to pull off a big deal but never quite manages it (remember the Co-op? Or Royal & Sun Alliance?). A story ran in this morning’s New York Post saying Corvus Capital, his vehicle, had made a takeover approach for EMI (market cap: £2bn). Then, this afternoon, without either EMI or Corvus shares having moved much on the story, Corvus put out a statement saying it had considered bidding for EMI and decided not to – but could have financed it if it had wanted to. Corvus has a market cap of £73m.

Among the big companies, we remain interested in Tate & Lyle’s ongoing woes with sucralose. The shares are off 6 per cent, although we’re looking into rumours that the company’s broker, Citigroup, might also have spooked everyone a bit.

We have results from a bunch of other big companies as well. Icap is motoring away as usual, filling Michael Spencer’s pockets with dividend cheques. Experian, the consumer credit and commercial information provider, reported solid figures, its first full-year numbers since it was demerged from GUS. And Kesa’s first-quarter numbers look alright, if unspectacular.

Rumour of the day: Water stocks are moving again on bid speculation. Pennon, owner of South West Water, in particular is rumoured to be in the sights of Aguas de Barcelona, which FT Alphaville says is a Suez vehicle.

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