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No story in the UK yet compares with the overnight news, in the New York Times, that Merrill Lynch’s Stan O’Neal held merger talks with Wachovia without keeping his board fully up to speed, or with news that oil has passed $92. Watching O’Neal and Citigroup’s Chuck Prince race each other to the exit is quite a spectacle and we’ll have lots more on this story in tomorrow’s paper.

That said, in London, doubts are growing about Delta Two’s bid for J Sainsbury. The Takeover Panel has set it a deadline of November 8 to make a firm offer. Delta Two is in talks with the Qatari Investment Authority to secure funding for its proposed 600p a share cash deal, the equivalent of asking Dad for a float. Sainsbury shares are off 2.5 per cent at 569p.

Resolution has recommended Standard Life’s cash and shares offer. Hugh Osmond’s Pearl, which has made a rival approach, has done its best this morning to pour cold water on Standard Life’s proposal but we’ll have to see how he responds. It doesn’t look good, though, for Friends Provident, which thought it had a cosy deal with Resolution.

Legal & General said new business sales dropped 8 per cent in the first nine months of the year as capital market turmoil and regulatory changes hurt annuity sales.

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