Bids at last for Bridgewell

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It has been a monster morning for those keeping the website up to date with a huge amount of strong corporate news.

Much of it has come from the financial sector and much of it is good. As we predicted on Saturday, Lloyd’s produced spectacular profits, turning a £103m loss in 2005 into a £3.7bn profit last year. Obviously, the lower level of catastrophes made all the difference but the interesting thing today will be to look at whether Lloyd’s is getting better at underwriting and managing itself.

3i said it planned to return £800m of surplus cash to shareholders after it generated almost £2bn from selling, floating and refinancing companies in its portfolio in the first 11 months of its financial year.

The London Stock Exchange said it would report ”outstanding” full-year results fuelled by an increase in equity trading volumes. The shares are down a penny at £12.60, still above the £12.43 Nasdaq offered. Icap shares are also down a touch, after a good run, on an in-line trading update.

And Bridgewell, the UK investment bank which has been one of the worst performers in the sector, said it had received a number of preliminary takeover approaches. The firm also announced a sharp fall in profits this morning. FT Alphaville suggests Cannacord or Jefferies may be involved and that Numis and Collins Stewart could take a look. Macquarie had a look last year, I seem to remember. All comers welcome, I should think.

Kingfisher has revalued its property up 9 per cent and the pensions deficit is down. Come and get as private equity, as they didn’t quite say. Profits for the year, though, are lower and not quite as clean as expected.

Tate & Lyle is trying to get over its recent profit warning by saying trading has improved and it has reached a £51m settlement with the EU about a discontinued business. Nothing very exciting there but the prospects of a share buy-back after Tate sells its European starch business have helped the shares up 5½ per cent this morning.

Finally, police are are investigating a “significant fraud operation” at DSG International’s French division. Several workers and “external individuals” have been arrested. The impact on profits could be more than £10m but it isn’t clear yet. Our retail correspondent, Beth Rigby, will be doing a video interview later with the chief executive, John Clare, who is at the World Retail Congress in Barcelona.

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