First Artist Deal Prompts Talk of Break-Up Bid; MARKET ROUND-UP

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon English

JON Smith has long been regarded as the acceptable face of the football agency world -- the goto guy when the posh daily papers are looking for an insight into a business often unfairly regarded as a sordid affair.

But shares in his First Artist firm, which joined AIM in 2002, have been struggling for respectability.

The other day First Artist offloaded its wealth management arm Optimal for [pounds sterling]1.5 million as part of what brokers reckon could be a wider restructuring.

Market rumours of a bid for the company, which also owns the Dewynters theatre promotion agency, were beginning to circulate today. Other theories had the football arm being spun off, perhaps to management, or further disposals.

The shares were flat at 201/2p but news of one sort or other could be imminent.

Elsewhere, there was talk of a downgrade for Burberry. The luxury-goods group has had a fantastic run, the shares almost doubling last year.

That was enough to promote the company best known for its check designs into the FTSE 100 but the signs are that it might struggle to repeat such a performance.

Results from other luxury-goods houses suggest January was a tough month and investors were beginning to take profits today. The stock lost 41/2p to 618p.

Nightclub group Luminar was tentatively dancing -- up a penny at 371/4p. The gossip was that its tie-up with HMV -- promotions in the stores for the clubs and in the clubs for CDs -- could be more significant than either side has let on or than the market yet realises.

A full takeover of Luminar -- larger-than-life chief executive Stephen Thomas is rumoured to be looking for a way out -- has been discussed and dismissed before, however. …


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