Gallaher shares light up

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Today the markets get their first chance to assess Gallaher’s statement that it has received a takeover approach. That announcement came late yesterday, just as most of the UK Companies desk was walking out to a pub quiz.

The poor souls who stayed behind or filed from the restaurants will take the story on today, with the focus so far being on the 20 per cent rise in Gallaher’s share price. The approach has come from Japan Tobacco, which owns the Camel and Winston brands outside the US. However, stand by for others – perhaps Altria (Philip Morris) or BAT – to have a go as well. We’ll tell you with whom Gallaher, owner of Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut, would fit (with JT, they would be a powerful force in the former Soviet bloc).

Elsewhere, Caffe Nero is being bought by its management and its two leading shareholders for £225m. The independent directors are recommending this 270p offer even though in September they received a higher proposal at 300p from a trade bidder. The higher proposal was conditional on due diligence and on Caffe Nero’s two largest shareholders backing it (they have 43 per cent) but they didn’t want to sell.

Premier Oil shares are down sharply after the company said talks with potential bidders were off.

A drop in annual profits at First Choice looks a bit better than expected. However, the real story may lie in any update we get on the sale of their mainstream package holidays business (to MyTravel or Thomas Cook, probably) or in what they say about the new air passenger duties announced in the PBR yesterday.

Rank confirmed our story about the sale of the Hard Rock Cafe chain for $965m (£490m) to a company set up by Florida’s Seminole Native American Indians. The company will return £350m to shareholders. It also unveiled a decline in bingo revenues and the appointment of a new chairman (Peter Johnson, chairman of Inchcape).

Rumours of the Day: Two old favourites: Barclays (up 4 per cent) and SSL (up 5 per cent) are both being lifted on takeover rumours.

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