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Saudi Arabia’s Saad group has taken a 3.1 per cent stake in HSBC. This is the vehicle of Maan Abdulwahed Al-Sanea, who, in the UK, owns a large stake in Berkeley Homes. He will now be HSBC’s second largest investor after Barclays. We had picked up rumours last week that Prince Al-Waleed had built up a 3 per cent but it was a different Saudi investor, it seems. HSBC shares are rising.

Banks are providing us with lots of news today: the other big story is the fascinating battle for ABN Amro between Barclays and the RBS-led consortium. With the RBS interest confirmed late on Friday, ABN shares rose nearly 6 per cent this morning to €35.80. The economics for Barclays always looked flimsy and this only makes them more so. On the other hand, for all the deal-cred of RBS and Santander, there is a lot that is unclear and uncertain about their proposal. RBS shares, incidentally, are up more than 3½ per cent, which goes to show how far sentiment has changed since investors began moaning about Sir Fred Goodwin’s deal hunger.

Peter Hargreaves and Stephen Lansdown are to float the Bristol-based stockbroker which bears their names, valuing their stakes at £260m each. This must be good news for Bristol City Football Club, which Lansdown chairs. The small investment banks are an interesting sector at the moment. Only last week we wrote about Richard Griffiths, co-founder of Evolution, returning to the market with a new firm, Ora Capital Partners, which is apparently likely to be valued at around £120m. And we should hear more soon about the sale of Bridgewell.

We’ll also check out the suggestion going around that Imperial Tobacco may go hostile in its bid for Altadis. And we’ll have a look at the story around yesterday that Celesio of Germany has asked to team up with KKR and Stefano Pessina in their bid for Alliance Boots.

Shares in Fiberweb, spun out of BBA, fell more than 10 per cent this morning as the materials manufacturer issued a profits warning because of continuing problems at its US industrial division.

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