Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Investors Deaf to Rumours of Takeover Bid for Halfords; MARKET ROUND-UP

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Investors Deaf to Rumours of Takeover Bid for Halfords; MARKET ROUND-UP

Article excerpt

Byline: Rosamund Urwin

IS a suitor circling bikes and car parts chain Halfords? That was the whisper on the lips of the City's biggest mouths today, with both private equity and a retail giant being mooted as potential bidders.

Indeed, the gossips said that one predator was willing to offer 580p a share for the retailer.

But investors either hadn't heard the yarn or weren't convinced, and Halfords shares slipped 1/2p to 442.7p. The company has performed well through the economic downturn, helped by Brits staying within these shores for their summer holidays and using its shops to kit themselves out for trips. However, analysts warned last week that supply problems at its new distribution centre have hit sales during the summer.

As a result, the retailer's shares are currently trading nearly 20% below their June high. Talk is that a possible suitor reckons this leaves them looking temptingly cheap.

Shares in London were broadly flat in light trading, with the FTSE 100 index slipping 3.79 points to 5594.69.

Gains from the heavyweight miners helped offset losses elsewhere, but investors seemed jittery after a downgrade to Anglo Irish Bank's senior debt from ratings agency Moody's. However, the FTSE 250 index was spared the sell-off, climbing 43.77 points to 10582.77 points.

It was smaller stocks which were stopping market makers from twiddling their thumbs.

"We are in something of a spiv market -- people are looking for quick ways to make cash," explained one trader. "Volumes are desperately light today but I've been busy with small cap stocks. There's no important data which should push us one way or the other."

By 10.30am, only 138 million shares had changed hands on the London Stock Exchange this morning compared with an average trade of around 325 million usually.

"That's not volume, that's an apology," said market veteran David Buik of BGC Partners.

"In terms of market-moving material, if you strip out Wolseley and Unilever, there is nothing to get investors excited. People seem relatively happy with their positions, but most don't want to add to them. …

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