Imperial bid tops great day

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What a day! We have Cadbury Schweppes effectively dissolving itself, Imperial Tobacco bidding €11.5bn for Altadis in Spain, the Pru producing strong results and cutting 3,000 jobs, and Morrisons giving itself a much-needed makeover.

Imps first. Its move on Altadis comes just a month after it splashed out $1.9bn on a US acquisition and it’s fascinating to see these guys go for it so soon after Gallaher gave up and sold out to Japan Tobacco. Validation of Imps’ move: not only are Altadis shares up but Imps shares are up almost 8 per cent. FT Alphaville is having an interesting discussion about the chronology of all this.

Cadbury. The group said it planned to split itself into two companies, one focused on drinks and the other on sweets. It says it has been thinking about doing this for two or three years and reviewed its plans for the past six months. But the information released today doesn’t look anything like six months’ work, let alone three years. The management looks seriously rattled by the arrival of Nelson Peltz on its shareholder register and by investor unhappiness at its abandonment of profit targets last year.

To judge from the questions on this morning’s conference call, some people are unimpressed with how the group has communicated its intentions. Asked why he told investors in October that Cadbury was sticking with its existing structure (see p17 and p45 of the transcript), chief executive Todd Stitzer said: “That’s the way business works.” Which isn’t a great answer. The shares, already up strongly this week, are up 4½ per cent today. But surely nobody really believes this process will really end with two separate stocks. This looks more like the preparations for a straight auction of the bits.

Prudential shares are up after better than expected full-year results and the group outlined its plans to boost growth in the UK. The plan to hit the retirement market harder with £1.8bn bulk annuities deal with Equitable has gone down well but investors sound less sure about the broader plans for the UK. We’ll take more soundings, though, and report back. Nice to see Andrea Felsted’s scoop about Peter Bloxham being appointed policyholder advocate. “Why is it that the Financial Times knows before Prudential’s shareholders that the policyholder advocate for the orphan estate attribution will be Peter Bloxham?” asked Collins Stewart analyst Tim Young in a note this morning.

Wm Morrison is to ditch its 30-year-old advertising slogan proclaiming “More reasons to shop at Morrison’s” and will invest another £450m in the business. Marc Bolland, the new chief executive, today published details of his strategic review and announced annual pre-tax profits at the top end of expectations. It all seems to be going down reasonably well: the shares are up 1½ per cent.

Rumour of the day: Sainsbury shares are moving again, up 3½ per cent at 548½p with some in the market convinced a bid of more than 600p is on the way. FT Alphaville is rubbishing this a bit but points out that Robert Tchenguiz has been buying again and is sitting on 3.47 per cent now.

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