Weekly stock market round-up


SMG, the heavily indebted media group, sold its newspaper publishing business to US publisher Gannett for £216m, well above initial estimates. The business comprises titles like the Glasgow Herald and the Evening Times. The purchase is still subject to regulatory clearance. Gannett is part-owned by Berkshire Hathaway, the investment company run by legendary US stock-picker Warren Buffett, and is apparently looking for more UK assets.

Nuclear generator British Energy agreed to sell its majority stake in Bruce Power, a Canadian nuclear generator, to its existing partners in the venture for a maximum price of C$770m or around £305m – well short of the £500m it was once thought to be worth. Financial support from the government will be extended until 9 March while it works on the sale of another overseas asset, its 50 per cent stake in US nuclear power generator AmerGen. It also needs to negotiate new terms with its creditors, and we’d still leave the shares alone. The company could still go bust.

Amey said the sale of its PFI portfolio to Laing Investments would not complete before the year-end and will be for a less advantageous price than initially thought. That means cash profits will be £27m against the £35m previously predicted, while exceptional losses will rise to £95m from £95m. The company’s chief executive, Brian Staples, resigned a few days later. One piece of good news for the company is that financial closure on the controversial London Underground PPP has finally been reached.

BAE Systems said the agreement to sell to EADS its stake in Astrium, a space exploration venture, lapsed without the sale being completed. Talks would re-open in the new year, but in the meantime, the trading environment for Astrium has continued to deteriorate. It seems the company cannot get anything right at the moment.

has been forced to adopt stricter labeling on its lung canger treatment, Iressa. The drug is only on sale in Japan, where it has been linked to 124 deaths. The new regime will surely affect its prospects for approval in the all-important US market. Additionally, the company said US regulators rejected a new 150mg indication of Casodex for early treatment of prostrate cancer. The decision does not affect the existing 50mg formulation, or the use of 150mg product in other jurisdictions. But it leaves us wondering how the company’s shares justify their premium rating.

Allders, the department store chain, provided a depressing preview of Christmas trading. It said that like-for-like sales were down 3.3 per cent in the 11 weeks to 19 December. The comments were made in a circular relating to the company’s acquisition by a consortium led by Minerva

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