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Today’s best story is from Reckitt Benckiser, the consumer goods group that finds growth where others can’t. This morning, publishing its interims, it produced yet another strong set of figures and said it was set to beat targets for the full year. Bart Becht, the chief executive, is one of the most unsung heros of British business. We’ll tell you more about how he does it tomorrow, but also look at whether he can keep it up (there are a few signs of slowdown).
UK insurers Friends Provident and Resolution this morning agreed to merge in a nil-premium, all-share deal that will value the combined company at £8.6bn. The new group, to be called Friends Financial Group, will become the UK’s fifth biggest life assurer. We’ve written quite a lot about this since we got wind of it on Friday but we’ll see what we can say that is new. Neil and Paul on FT Alphaville suggest they might have rushed the announcement out for fear of a counterbid and say the Friends price is trading above the price implied by the merger.
More interestingly, there seems to a bit of row brewing over Barclays‘ clawback arrangement, announced this week. Maggie Urry has the details but you should also read Paul and Neil on FT Alphaville. They smell a bit of a rat.
Also, we’re keeping an eye on EMI’s share price, which is off this morning and remains below Terra Firma’s offer. As we and others reported, the banks are getting nervous about the weak level of shareholder support for Terra Firma’s bid.
Finally, how good were our Mike Ashley pictures this morning? Getting anything other than the dreadful PR handouts from the float has been almost impossible but we had one of our top men, Daniel Lynch, outside Merrill Lynch yesterday. Sadly, he waited for hours but just as Ashley emerged he had had to go off and file some other pics for 10 minutes and the lucky shot fell to his colleague, Ben Stansall. FT Alphaville is running a caption competition. Sports Direct shares are off 1.97p today at 145p. I must be going mad, though: I had a dream last night that Ashley had decided to buy Sports Direct back for more than 300p a share. One can but dream.