I’m running a bit behind today I’m afraid because I have had a new faster computer installed, so of course nothing works properly. There are a couple of big stories around to keep up with today, above all Paul Murphy’s story running on FT Alphaville that Vodafone has apparently been considering a bid for Verizon. Not Verizon Wireless, where it has a large minority stake – the whole thing, all $160bn of it. Vodafone shares, which were up a bit this morning, have fallen sharply since Paul posted his story at 11am.
If Vodafone were to follow through such thoughts, there would be some industrial logic to it. However, the cash required would trash the group’s ratings and leave it less exposed to emerging markets than some investors had hoped and than Vodafone has been promising. Mobile penetration in the US is running at around 80 per cent. Paul says the chances of such an idea being put into practice is very slim indeed and points out that no approach has been made to Verizon. Vodafone agrees. It says it has “no plans” to make such an offer.
The other big story is the glacial ABN Amro takeover battle. The RBS consortium has tweaked its offer, increasing the proportion of cash. Barclays shares are up, which suggests the market thinks the Scots are a nose ahead at the moment.
Our third significant bid story today is confirmation from HBOS that it is considering a move on Quintain Estates. This is the property company chaired by FT columnist John Plender. HBOS picked up a 12 per cent stake in Quintain from Paul Kemsley last week.
We’re also following the profit warning from Lonmin, which said it had hit problems at its Marikana mine in South Africa resulting in a cut in its forecast of platinum production for the full year. Lonmin is having a difficult couple of years on the operational front and our mining and South African correspondents should be able to tell you more about them later.
Another one we’re watching after last week’s spectacular share price rise is Northwest Biotherapeutics, which seems to be close to a vaccine for brain cancer. Only not quite as close as some thought, according to a statement from the company today. The shares are off 3 per cent.