Corus leads strong news day

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We are awash with strong news stories today, which is why this blog is a little later than usual. The sale of Corus to Tata overnight is the big story. We’ll look at what it means for employees and for the loser, CSN. We’ll tell you about drama leading up to this point, especially the final hours. And above all we’ll look at how Tata can possibly justify paying 608p a share. It was only in mid-2003 that Corus was worth the equivalent of 19p.

Elsewhere, F&C looks catastrophic. Its shares fell 17 per cent after it said clients continued to pull funds out. It said assets under management at the end of December had fallen 20 per cent year-on-year, to £104bn, and that it had been informed of further institutional withdrawals of £3.7bn, primarily Dutch institutional balanced assets. F&C also says it needs to “rebase” its dividend, and you can bet it doesn’t mean upwards.

We’ll take a close look at the mess F&C seems to have made of itself since it was created from the merger of Foreign & Colonial and Isis, Friends Provident’s fund management business. Today’s news is weighing on Friends Provident, which owns 51 per cent of F&C and which reported sales figures that were less good than L&G’s but better than the Pru’s.

Contrast F&C’s performance with New Star Asset Management. It has published a strong trading update and says it will return £300m to shareholders. Assets under management rose 17 per cent in the second half to £21bn, it said, and promised more growth in 2007.

The cost of BSkyB’s broadband expansion is becoming clearer. Its interim profits today are down nearly 9 per cent – better than analysts had been expecting – as it absorbed the costs of setting up its broadband service.

Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile phone group, on Wednesday said it had hit 200m customers after organic growth of 6.1 per cent during its third quarter, in line with analysts’ estimates. The shares rose 1 per cent as investors were reassured by a steady trading statement, which reiterated earlier expectations for full-year results. More reassurances that it won’t overpay for Hutchison Essar in India.

And of course, we won’t let the Torex Retail story go. This is a truly fascinating story but I can’t say any more now on where we’re looking or what we might get.

We’ll keep an eye also on Altria’s statement later for news of what the owner of Philip Morris and Kraft might do with its stake in SABMiller. We should hear around 3pm London time.

Rumour of the Day: Kelda shares are up on rumours of a bid, either from management or United Utilities.

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