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    MARKET REPORT: Countrywide shares soar 45% after rival Connells swoops

    MARKET REPORT: Countrywide shares soar 45% after estate agent receives an approach from rival Connells

    Another day, another takeover. At least that’s how it feels on the London market at the moment after a string of swoops on both beleaguered and thriving firms.

    The latest target is estate agency Countrywide, which closed a whopping 41.4 per cent higher, or 60p, at 205p, after receiving an approach from rival Connells.

    Connells has said it would be willing to pay 250p per share – but emphasised talks are at a very early stage.

    Takeover offer: Connells has said it would be willing to pay 250p per share  for Countrywide – but emphasised talks are at a very early stage

    Leighton Buzzard-based Connells also said it won’t make a firm offer unless the Countrywide board gives it their blessing.

    But the proposal, which is at a 72 per cent premium to Countrywide’s closing price on Friday, potentially throws a spanner in the works to an existing plan to get a cash injection from private equity group Alchemy Partners.

    For the time being, Countrywide has postponed the one-off meeting that would have seen investors vote on the arrangement with Alchemy. 

    Shareholders might be approaching the latest proposal with caution, after another possible suitor, LSL Property Services, backed away from making a bid earlier this year.

    Dealmaking was a feature elsewhere on the market too.

    Stock Watch – Walker Greenbank 

    Luxury wallpaper and furniture fabric-maker Walker Greenbank has struck another deal with Next.

    It will design an ‘extensive range’ of clothes, such as men’s shirts, and homeware that will be on sale from July 2021. 

    The two-and-a-half-year licensing deal includes a collaboration with Walker Greenbank’s Sanderson brand, granted a Royal Warrant almost a century ago.

    Shares in the AIM-listed interiors group rose 12.4 per cent, or 7.5p, to 68p.

    Construction supplier Breedon rose 6.6 per cent, or 5p, to 81.2p, after it sold 14 sites to Tillicoultry Quarries. 

    The Competition and Markets Authority said the sales, which came to £12.2million, would be needed to clear the way for Breedon’s takeover of cement maker Cemex, which is poised to go through.

    But business supplier Bunzl dropped 3.6 per cent, or 91p, to 2460p after it bought a personal protective equipment distributor in Brazil. 

    Bunzl’s news was perhaps unfortunately timed – as pharmaceuticals company Pfizer announced its Covid vaccine was found to be 90 per cent effective.

    The news lit a rocket under shares worldwide – particularly for companies in sectors such as leisure and travel that have been the hardest-hit so far this year.

    The FTSE 100 rose 4.7 per cent, or 276.27 points, to 6186.29, while the FTSE 250 climbed 5.2 per cent, or 932.53 points, to finish at 18850.36.

    Holiday group On the Beach was among the winners. Its stock surged 29.4 per cent, or 78p, to 343p, pushing it into a rally after a lukewarm morning in which it said it was struggling to secure refunds from airlines for its customers.

    And the Gym Group jumped 38.5 per cent, or 52.8p, to 190p, despite warning it will burn through £6million in cash during the month-long national lockdown in England.

    Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey said sales were recovering faster than expected, fuelled by the cut to stamp during.

    In a full-year trading update, it told investors it now expects to be at the ‘top end’ of £242million to £292million in forecast profits for 2020 and is on course for profits ‘materially above’ £626million next year.

    Dividend-starved investors also cheered as the firm said it expected to resume its payout in 2021. The company, whose shares rose 18.6 per cent, or 22.95p, to 146.25p, added that it spent £826million buying up land. 

    This was more than usual, after it boosted its war chest with a £500million fundraising earlier this year.

    BHP was boosted after the High Court threw out a £5billion lawsuit against the world’s biggest miner.

    The group claim was brought by law firm PGMBM and represented more than 200,000 Brazilians who were seeking damages from the collapse of a waste dam in 2015, which led to the deaths of 19 people and wiped out virtually an entire village.

    Mr Justice Turner said the proceedings were a ‘clear abuse of process’ and criticised the ‘huge swathes’ of paperwork both sides had submitted. BHP shares climbed 2.9 per cent, or 46.2p, to 1631p.

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