Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Whitbread Set to Raise [Pounds Sterling]1bn from Lloyd Sale; MARKET ROUND-UP

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Whitbread Set to Raise [Pounds Sterling]1bn from Lloyd Sale; MARKET ROUND-UP

Article excerpt


WHITBREAD looks poised to raise almost [pounds sterling]1 billion from the sale of its David Lloyd Leisure fitness chain after confirming last week's exclusive report in the Evening Standard that its disposal was being planned.

Whitbread says it has received a number of unsolicited approaches for David Lloyd, although it was anxious to make clear that no decision to sell the business has been made. But to assess the level of interest the company's financial adviser has already supplied information to potential bidders.

They are thought to include millionaire financier Simon Halabi, rival fitness chain Esport and London Regional, owner of the Next Generation health clubs. Whitbread touched a record high of 1958p before backtracking to trade 31p lower at 1906p.

Shares generally picked up after a slow start, with the FTSE 100 index rising 14.7 to 6354.1. The index was underpinned by fresh demand for the miners amid evidence of further consolidation within the industry.

This follows Xstrata's agreed takeover of nickel miner LionOre. The shares were suspended on the Australian Stock Exchange today. The terms value LionOre at A$18.5 a share.

Xstrata jumped 48p to 2626p. There has been talk in recent weeks that Xstrata was about to turn its guns on Anglo American, which recovered an early fall to trade 35p higher at 2672p.

The news came just after Goldman Sachs had downgraded Anglo-Swiss mining giant Xstrata from buy to neutral and cut its estimates to reflect higher costs in coal and nickel mining. The US broker believes Xstrata's rerating potential is now almost complete and there is limited scope for improvement.

The market was also underpinned by news of the proposed [pounds sterling]5 billion merger between Taylor Woodrow, up 661/2p at 487p, and George Wimpey, 39p better at 674p. Redrow, up 42p at 6481/2p is seen as the next takeover target. But there were also gains for Bellway, 105p better at 1618p, and Bovis, 61p up at 1203p. …

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