Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Surprise as Benfield Finds US Buyer at ?844M

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Surprise as Benfield Finds US Buyer at ?844M

Article excerpt

Byline: ROSAMUND URWIN

BENFIELD, the insurance company founded by the late Matthew Harding, is being sold to US giant Aon in an ?844 million deal.

Harding, the former vice-chairman of Chelsea FC, died in a helicopter crash in 1996. In a move that took the market by surprise, Aon today unveiled an agreed deal at 350p a share. The reinsurer, which specialises in kidnap, ransom and earthquake cover, will be integrated into its existing reinsurance operations, Aon Re Global.

News of the deal sent Benfield's shares soaring to the top of the mid-cap leader board. They climbed to within a whisker of the offer price today, gaining 78?p to 349?p.

Equities may have come crashing down with a bump in recent months, but the worst could still be to come for the stock market. That was the warning from prominent City economist and doom-monger Roger Bootle, who said that the downturn in the economy is likely to be longer lasting and deeper than most forecasters have predicted.

But the report from Capital Economics notes that the light at the end of the tunnel could still be in sight, as falling commodity prospects and interest rates cuts help the markets to a modest recovery. The FTSE 100 index defied the pessimism, rising 7.2 points to 5377.4 despite losses in Asia overnight. Traders predict volumes will be low today as investors leave early for the bank holiday weekend.

Bookie William Hill, which has been given a battering by the brokers this week, was again out of favour. This time, it was UBS dealing the blow, slashing its target price for the company from 300p to 250p and warning over the impact of the cancellation of 13 horserace meetings this month.

The betting shops chain is expected to have been particularly badly hit by the lucrative Ebor meeting in York being halted. UBS reiterated its sell rating, but punters ignored the note, sending its shares ahead by 4p to 270?p.

Broker ING says the drugs do work, advising clients to buy into British biotech tiddler Antisoma. …

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