Instead of the trades that might make them money, some of London’s smartest punters were more interested in the future of one of the shops that takes their bets. They heard (and passed on) rumours that Cantor Fitzgerald, the American brokerage house that mopped up Seymour Pierce last year, is about to offload its spread-betting and contacts for difference, or CFD, business.
The idea, according to those who thought themselves in the know, is that Charles Knott — the man who runs that business and a specialist in dealing for what the City likes to call “high-net-worth” individuals — will carve it out of Cantor.
Cantor would concentrate then on institutional broking and market-making, while its CFD and spread-betting business is dropped wholesale into Solo Capital, an acquisitive boutique financial services group with connections to India and the Middle East.
The plan, purportedly, is then to roll in Old Park Lane Capital, the broking house founded and run by Michael Parnes, son of Anthony Parnes, the millionaire stockbroker nicknamed “The Animal” who became embroiled in the Guinness scandal in the 1980s. Old Park Lane brings settlement facilities and regulatory licences to any combined entity.
Otherwise, the wider stock market trod water. Again. The FTSE 100 drifted 12 points lower to 6,792.2, with traders reluctant to take meaty positions before the latest update on the Federal Reserve’s thinking today and before Scotland decides whether to remain part of the United Kingdom tomorrow. Stock markets across Europe nursed similar, modest losses.
Among those weighing on London was ARM Holdings, off 18p at 920p after the Nasdaq endured its worst day since July on Monday. America’s technology investors were said to be clearing the decks for the market debut of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce company, at the end of the week.
SABMiller, whose merger ambitions were knocked back by Heineken within the past fortnight, slid 79p to £36.61 after it emerged that no takeover talks were happening, for now, with Anheuser-Busch InBev, the biggest drinks group of all. Still with the drinks industry and Punch Taverns was 3.9 per cent higher at 9.35p. Today, finally, the company should be given the go-ahead for a painful debt-for-equity swap after years of talks with bondholders.
Back in the Footsie, Pearson, the publisher of textbooks, ran 20p higher to £12.26 after a push by Morgan Stanley, while miners were underpinned by positive research from Deutsche Bank. Oil shares were buoyed by a jump in crude prices after Opec signalled a production cut and Libya curbed output. Royal Dutch Shell’s B shares rose 19½p to £24.99½.
On AIM, TXO jumped 38.7 per cent to 0.215p after a contract to process waste oil with a company in which it invests was extended. For TXO bulls, that offered proof that the potentially highly lucrative technology works.
Thalassa Holdings was thumped 41½p, or nearly 23 per cent, to 139p after a horrible profit warning. Blaming sanctions against Russia and a new chief executive at a Russian state-owned customer of its seismic surveys, the energy services company is struggling to convert its pipeline into revenue. In response, WH Ireland hacked back its target price for the shares from 400p to 260p.
Investors go where action is
There was plenty of action in Action Hotels as investors in London checked into the only listed Middle Eastern hotels group.
Sheikh Mubarak, its founder and chairman, is a member of the Kuwaiti ruling family. He delivered a maiden set of interim results this week that drew applause from investors who had backed the business when it floated on AIM last December, among them Andy Brough, the Schroders star fund manager, and L&G.
Revenues were higher. So, too, were occupancy levels and the value of Action’s half-dozen hotels. Less gold taps and polar bear-skin rugs, Action focuses on the Middle East’s mid-market, taking in brands such as Premier Inn, Holiday Inn and Ibis.
Unusually, Action develops, builds and owns its hotels, but lets its brand partners look after marketing, operations and other “front of house” functions. A further nine hotels are under construction in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Both Sanlam and finnCap were pushing Action shares that made their debut at 64p and settled at 69½p yesterday, valuing the company at north of £102 million.
Wall Street report
A rise in oil prices was the cue for energy stocks to climb on Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones industrial average back towards the record-breaking territory of last month. At the close, the Dow stood on 17,131.97 points, up 100.83.