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There’s an awful lot to choose from today, but surely the most interesting story is Roman Abramovich’s move on Highland Gold, where he plans to take a 40 per cent stake for $400m.
Because Highland Gold is registered in Jersey, Abramovich’s investment vehicle, Millhouse, is able to disregard normal London rules on pre-emption rights and mandatory offers. Millhouse will buy shares at 151p in two tranches, a discount both to the group’s float price and to last night’s close of 163¼p. The shares, nevertheless, are up 7½ per cent at 175½p.
The obvious people who get hit by Abramovich’s move are Barrick Gold, who had taken advantage of the same latitude on the rules to raise their stake from 20 per cent to 34 per cent. For more on this splendid tale, go to FT Alphaville. And there is yet another twist, but you’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s People column for that one.
The other big story is the interview given to a Chinese newspaper by Xu Lejiang, chairman of Baosteel Group, China’s largest steel maker. He said there was “a strong possibility” that the group would launch a bid for Rio Tinto. As our correspondent in Shanghai explains on FT.com, there are several reasons not to take these remarks too literally. Rio’s London-listed shares have barely moved this morning.
There is more credit squeezery of course. JD Sports and Greene King have both reported slowdowns in the last few weeks of trading. On the other hand, Tesco ploughs on, reporting very strong sales and, in sharp contrast to Monday’s restaurant news, Carluccio’s says trading has been ahead of expectations.
Weir Group, which has had a busy year, is not slowing down. It is boosting its presence in African mining with the £113m acquisition of CH Warman Pump Group (CHW), at the same time as issuing a bullish full-year trading statement.
Finally, a bunch of bankers have appeared before the Treasury Select Committee this morning to answer questions on the credit squeeze. One of my colleagues who was there said it was the usual mixture of rude, often ill-informed questioning and defensive mumbled answers (except from Gerald Corrigan, ex-NY Fed, now at Goldman, who tried to explain how SIVs worked). We’ll have more in tomorrow’s paper.