May 23: M&S profits bloom but shares wilt

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May 23: No wonder Stuart Rose was in such fine form yesterday evening at the Chelsea Flower Show. This morning, he released a strong set of Marks and Spencer annual results. Almost everything that mattered was up: gross margins, profits, the dividend. Everything, that is, apart from costs, which remain an issue, partly because of unexpectedly expensive refurbishments. Like-for-like sales were up just 1.3 per cent. Still, Rose is on the right track and, with the shares (off 4 per cent at 544p) miles above the 400p that Philip Green proposed paying two years ago, he looks good. Lex, however, struggles to see how much further the stock can go. Incidentally, among the big sellers at M&S were the £30 luxury orchids, whose sister plants were very much the hit at Chelsea last night: Elisabeth Murdoch, Charles Allen and Sir Christopher Bland were raving about them.

Euronext shareholders have rejected the merger proposal from Deutsche Börse, clearing the way for a deal with the New York Stock Exchange.

Associated British Ports says it has received an improved takeover proposal from the consortium led by Goldman Sachs. This is now offering 810p a share, up from 740p in March. In return, ABP has agreed to give the consortium a limited period of due diligence. ABP shares are up 15 per cent at 770.2p.

Paul Hazen and Penny Hughes are leaving the Vodafone board. Hazen was the senior independent director but was far from independent.

Two of PartyGaming’s founders are stepping down from the board. Anurag Dikshit, who owns 30 per cent, will stay at the company and concentrate on new products and platforms. His old college chum, Vikrant Bhargava, who owns 8.6 per cent, is leaving the group. Both are prevented from selling, but only until the end of June. The share price is unchanged.

EMI published strongly improved annual profits and reiterated its determination to merge with Warner Music of the US.

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