Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

WH Smith hasWoolies in Sights, Say Bid Spotters; MARKET REPORT

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

WH Smith hasWoolies in Sights, Say Bid Spotters; MARKET REPORT

Article excerpt

Byline: MICKEY CLARK

REVIVED talk of a bid lifted ailing pick-and-mix stores group Woolworths by 1/2p to 33p in heavy turnover today that saw more than 26 million shares change hands.

This time Woolies, the subject of a failed takeover attempt worth 58p a share by Apax Partners last year, is being linked with rival WH Smith, itself the subject of a failed takeover by private-equity money a couple of years ago.

Whispers in the market place claim Smith is prepared to offer 50p a share for the 800-strong stores group but some brokers reckon the story does not have the ring of truth. They say Smith has more than enough on its plate at the moment with its own recovery programme, and is unlikely to contemplate a bid for someone else.

Woolies, currently worth less than [pounds sterling]500 million, was being linked with Icelandic retail raider Baugur just a couple of weeks back. WH Smith rose 4p to 402p.

Share prices generally retreated across the board following a hesitant performance overnight on Wall Street, in the face of a higher oil price, and sporadic selling in the Far East today. The FTSE 100 index fell 28.3 to 5744.1.

City speculators say keep an eye on Cable & Wireless, up 3/4p at 102p. The company continues to recover its poise following last month's profits warning that led to the departure of Francesco Caio.

The price has collapsed from its peak of 800p in 2001 but the speculators insist C&W could prove attractive to any would-be predator that believes it to be looking cheap.

Turnover in the shares topped 11 million.

The City gave a lukewarm reception to record full-year profits from BP, the shares subsiding 15p to 6501/2p. Broker UBS says the outcome was marginally below its forecast and expressed concern about bigger-than-expected losses from the Texas City refinery shutdown.

ITV came off the boil, easing 1/4p to 113p. The shares have been buoyed this week by talk of a bid by private-equity companies. …

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