Our priority today is to see what more we can find out about the talks between Axa and JC Flowers about bidding for Friends Provident, whose chief executive, Philip Moore, has only just moved from the finance director’s office. Our description this morning of their plan as “embryonic” seems to have knocked Friends Prov shares back a little bit today but we think the Takeover Panel is all over this. Interestingly, it was only this week that Chris Flowers was predicting in our pages that there would be more financial services buy-outs. Nor is it very long since Axa was telling us about its appetite for UK acquisitions. Henri de Castries, chief executive, told us he wanted to be a top-five player in the UK.
The latest Russian issue in London, VTB, has got off to a strong start. The shares, priced at the top of the range, are up 6½ per cent. Not bad for Russia’s second largest bank which, two years ago, was derided as a “sinking Titanic”.
Guy Hands’ Terra Firma private equity group has doubled the size of its aircraft leasing business with the acquisition of San Francisco-based Pegasus Aviation Finance for an enterprise value of $5.2bn.
Rumours of the day: Rio Tinto shares are moving again on more rumours of a bid and stake-building. Earlier this week it felt like Rio might simply be a victim of computerised momentum trading, but this is beginning to feel more substantial. Standard Chartered is up on bid rumours as well.