Charles Pretzlik: Ashcroft business goes for 600% premium

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GlaxoSmithKline has chosen a 43-year-old Brit, Andrew Witty, to succeed JP Garnier as chief executive. It’s no joke, though, for the two losing candidates who can expect plenty of calls from headhunters. Witty takes over just as questions are being raised about Glaxo’s strategy and share price performance – short interest is higher than it had been for years. However, we can’t put any of this to Witty today – apparently neither he, nor JP, nor even chairman Sir Christopher Gent is available, which isn’t very impressive. Our pharma correspondent, Andrew Jack, has had a good first stab online at telling us what it all means.

Lots of financial news today. First, sad news: Seymour Pierce analyst and vice chairman Richard Ratner, who as we reported fell ill in the office last week, has died aged 58. I didn’t know him but sometimes felt like I did.

We’ll also have more Northern Rockery. We are, of course, chasing the Wall Street Journal’s line that Blackstone and Apollo have shown an interest in buying it. But we have a couple of other good lines too – not least an intriguing item on FT Alphaville about the Rock’s controversial-sounding links to a Down’s Syndrome charity.

Jonathan Howell, the London Stock Exchange’s finance director, is leaving to take up the same role at Close Brothers. A good catch for Close: he is, quite rightly, much liked and respected in the City. But he is getting out of the LSE at the top?

James Mackintosh, our hedge funds correspondent who wrote on Saturday about funds that had a dreadful August enjoying a fantastic September, is back on the trail of hedge fund dogs – real ones, with four legs.

We might hear formally today that RBS and co have won control of ABN Amro but they could delay an announcement, and certainly any interviews, until Fortis has got its rights issue away later this week. Incidentally, James Eden, the Kleinworts banks analyst who left to SocGen but spent less than a day there, is resurfacing at Exane.

Stand by for the documents on the merger between Resolution and Friends Provident. They won’t make light reading but they could be the trigger for Hugh Osmond’s Pearl and possibly Standard Life to step in for Resolution.

Beyond the financials, Severstal is getting aggressive in its bid for Celtic Resources, warning that its 29.7 per cent stake in the Aim-listed gold miner “can be used to block any other party from acquiring full control of Celtic and could potentially dissuade third parties from making a competing offer”. Celtic has dismissed Severstal’s letter as “slightly hysterical”.

Finally, Tory funder Lord Ashcroft has sold a loss-making, Aim-listed cleaning and repairs business, OneSource, for $365m – a premium of more than 600 per cent. The business comes with some handy tax losses. Useful timing.

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