Charles Pretzlik: Is the credit squeeze over?

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The Bank of England has held rates at 5.75 per cent but the FTSE 100 is nevertheless at 6572.1, not far from the high for the year, thanks in part to people buying the banks. Check out FT Alphaville for some very funny stuff on CNBC about how SHOCKED they are by the apparent recovery in the credit markets.

I’m not so sure the squeeze is over, but confirmation of our scoop that Abbot is in merger talks at least shows mid-market M&A is alive and well (fourth deal this week). We think the talks are with 3i, which has a lot of experience is oil services, but it looks like there is more than one bidder. Abbot shares are up 20 per cent.

Also interesting to see in the Irish Independent that Landsbanki is set to bid €1bn for Irish Nationwide Building Society. You would think Landsbanki was heavily dependent on the capital markets for its funding (not many depositors in Iceland) and that it had suffered accordingly over the summer. Yet here it is, apparently, buying again. We’ll have a look.

The credit squeeze, meanwhile, seems to have benefited Icap, which issued a trading statement today. And Michael Page says it has had little impact on recruitment. Elsewhere on the credit squeeze, the Times this morning had some intriguing details on Ben Bernanke’s diary for August, which shows he consulted Lewie Ranieri, godfather of mortgage trading and splendidly uncouth star of Liar’s Poker.

The main corporate story so far today is that BSkyB is in the sights of the regulators again. Ofcom said proposals by BSkyB to charge for the channels it plans to offer on Freeview, the free-to-air digital platform, raised competition concerns and it would consult on whether to block them wholly or in part. I haven’t had a chance to look at this properly but so far I can’t see what Ofcom’s problem is. BSkyB wants to replace the three free-to-air channels it currently offers on Freeview with five pay-TV channels – including Sky Sports 1, Sky Movies and Sky One. I can’t see why it shouldn’t but there seems to be some bellyaching from smaller rivals. No doubt our media editor, Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, will make sense of all this later.

The really interesting stuff, of course, is in France, where the stock market regulator has raised the alarm over possible insider trading on a “massive scale” inside EADS, the Franco-German aerospace group. We’ll try to do more today.

Rumour of the day: Bank of America to bid 750p for Barclays. The story made sense once, but in these markets? Anyway, it’s a good opportunity to plug Lombard’s great joke this morning (”Veni, vidi, Varley. He came, he saw, he almost certainly failed to conquer”). FT Alphaville says the same source that gave them Abbot yesterday is hearing of a bid for Plus Markets.

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