Investors cheer Premier-RHM deal

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Premier Foods has come through with its offer for RHM, as we predicted on FT.com on Saturday. Premier, home to brands such as Branston Pickle and Angel Delight, is offering £1.2bn in cash and shares for RHM, owner of Hovis bread and Mr Kipling cakes. Amazingly, Premier shares are up more than 5 per cent, which is most unusual for a bidder, especially one offering paper. RHM, though, is up 32 per cent. Northern Foods shares are up about 5 per cent on hopes that it will be next.

Aberdeen Asset Management reported a 70 per cent increase in annual pre-tax profits after the first full year since the group bought Deutsche Asset Management’s UK business. Pre-tax profits, after exceptional costs of £31m for integrating DeAm, were £53.8m against £31.6m last year.

Insurance Australia Group, Australia’s leading general insurer, is buying Equity Insurance Group, the British motor insurer and broker, for £570m. Equity, formerly known as Cox Insurance, was taken private last year in a deal backed by Duke Street and Englefield Capital.

BT has launched its long-awaited assault on BSkyB, BT Vision. It hopes for 2-3m users. Jeff Randall and I interviewed BSkyB’s chief executive, James Murdoch, last night on Jeff’s Weekend Business show on Radio Five Live and he sounded very confidentof his confidence in his ability to see off the competition. I’m afraid I don’t quite share his confidence but you can listen to the full interview on the Radio Five Live website. Anybody who thinks James is where he is solely because of his father should listen in: it is an impressive performance. However, keep an eye on that share price: BSkyB shareholders seem a bit rattled by both the competition from BT et al and by the fact that Sky is down £160m on its ITV investment. I can also reveal that, for all his talk of the futuristic world of modern media, he is reading Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths, a well-thumbed copy of which he brought into the studio.

We also have a strong trading update from Serco and from IG Group, the spread-betting company.

We are waiting to see if EMI rejects Permira’s 310p offer, as predicted by The Times this morning.

Rumour of the Day: Shares in Quintain Estates, the property company where my colleague John Plender is a director and about to become the chairman, are up a bit on rumours of stakebuilding by an aggressive investor. A holding seems to be being built up through Man Group, says Neil Hume on our markets desk, but we don’t yet know who is behind it.

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