Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Taking Stock; Your at A-Glance Guide

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Taking Stock; Your at A-Glance Guide

Article excerpt

BANKING AND FINANCE

Friends Provident sold more than [pounds sterling]1 billion of insurance and pensions in the UK in the first three months of the year, but the international arm struggled. UK sales leapt 22% but overseas business slid 2% to [pounds sterling]237 million.

BUIDING AND PROPERTY

The HSBC Tower became Britain's most expensive building today when it was sold to one of Spain's wealthiest families. It was bought for [pounds sterling]1.1 billion by Catalonia-based investment company Cresa, controlled by Roman Sanahuja.

CONSUMER

Upmarket wallpaper maker Colefax, owner of the Colefax and Fowler and Jane Churchill papers and fabrics brands, raised its profit forecasts for the year after strong sales in the past three months. The shares jumped 12%.

ECONOMICS

The Bank of Japan today opted to keep interest rates on hold at 0.5%, and was not seen likely to raise them for some time following the release of weak inflation figures.

Consumer prices excluding food dropped by 0.3% in March from a year ago.

ENGINEERING

Renault sales fell almost 3% to e10.3 billion ([pounds sterling]7 billion) in the first quarter as customers put off buying cars until the launch of new models, 26 of which are due out by 2009. New Twingo, Laguna and Megane models arrive soon.

HEALTH

Dentist chain Oasis Healthcare is in takeover talks that could value it at [pounds sterling]50 million. It has had approaches from potential bidders believed to be private-equity houses. Foresight Venture Partners and Advent International are shareholders.

INDUSTRIALS

Kepler Teather & Greenwood Merrion has begun coverage of Hightex with a buy rating and 115p target.

The specialist in polymer membranes is combining this expertise with solar-power technologies to create intelligent building systems.

LEISURE

Daniel Stewart has upgraded takeover favourite Ladbrokes from sell to hold as part of a betting and gaming review. Most companies in its coverage have been shifting in the right direction over the past few weeks. Ladbrokes has just broken off bid talks with 888 Holdings.

MEDIA

Pearsonchief exec Majorie Scardino today said its school publications division is expected to show strong growth in profits and margins, the Financial Times division's profits are set to grow strongly and margins at Penguin have further to go. …

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