May 5: Alliance & Leicester shares have been bouncing around today after a report that Spain’s Santander Central Hispano is in exclusive talks to buy the bank for more than £6.5bn. The story, which has echoed round the market for the last two months, is being denied on the wires by sources close to both companies and our own enquiries are also throwing up no sign of talks or even an approach.

A&L shares were up more than 10 per cent at one point and were still up more than 5 per cent at lunchtime. Analysts at WestLB don’t think the bank would be worth £6.5bn.

In the absence of an A&L bid story, the best tale around so far is the £182m takeover of ice cream maker Richmond Foods by part of Oaktree Capital of the US. Oaktree is offering 750p a share. The stock gained 6 per cent today but a glance at Richmond’s share price chart shows a surprising run-up in the share price at the end of last month.

One could be forgiven for thinking that perhaps Oaktree thought it was buying a business in Richmond, Virginia, not Yorkshire. However, the US fund manager seems set on consolidating the European ice cream market, having just bought Roncadin in Germany.

Among the winners at Richmond are Trevor Hemmings, the entrepreneur who has about 13 per cent of the company; chairman Ross Warburton, of the bakery family; and Alastair Salvesen, part of the family which made its fortune in logistics and owns 11 per cent of Richmond.

Central African Mining & Exploration has confirmed our story this morning about a significant fundraising. The company, led by Phil Edmonds and Andrew Goves, is raising £100m through a placing of new shares.

We are also standing by for a possible move by the New York Stock Exchange. Yesterday it made it easier for it to bid for Euronext or the London Stock Exchange by getting its secondary stock offering away. This raised $1.5bn.

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