December 8: Branson puts Virgin on the spot

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December 8: Extraordinary remarks on the radio this morning by Sir Richard Branson have forced Virgin Mobile to issue a statement clarifying its position with respect to the takeover offer from NTL.

It is saying it did not consider or solicit any price other than the 323p a share which NTL has offered and which Virgin Mobile last night rejected. Sir Richard was interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme and, earlier, on Wake Up To Money with Mickey Clark on Five Live. It is clear from what Sir Richard said that he is much better suited to the private arena than the public markets: there he was speaking authoritatively about negotiations he claimed were taking place between a supposedly independent board and an a third party, as well proclaiming that the minority shareholders and independent directors supported the deal in principle. Listen for yourself on the BBC website. The interviews are about 20 minutes in on both programmes.

Royal Bank of Scotland have issued a ho-hum trading statement. No news on buy-backs or much else to address some of the stock’s underperformance, which Peter Thal Larsen wrote about this morning. The stock is off again today.

Daily Mail & General Trust’s acquisition of the company which owns Primelocation.com, the property website, is interesting. It is paying £48m and is another example of media companies diversifying away from their core businesses - DMGT is selling its regional papers - in favour of new areas, including on the web.

PartyGaming shares are up more than 10 per cent after a strong trading statement. The number of new players is rising again and the company has found some new ways of generating income.

BAA has emerged as the leading and preferred bidder for Budapest Airport. It is offering £1.2bn.

We also have what we think may be (can’t be certain) the first ever interview with Derek Quinlan, the Irish former tax inspector turned property entrepreneur. He recently bought, and sold, the Savoy hotel but retains others that were in the same stable, including Claridge’s.

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