Markets & Finance

Prudential UK Rises on Management Change


Britain

Prudential UK was up £0.24 to £5.02 Thursday after it announcedthat Mark Tucker is to succeed Jonanthan Bloomer as CEO. Pru says Tucker is currently finance director at HBOS and will join the company on May 6. Tucker worked for Pru from 1986-2003. Merrill Lynch says that Bloomer had lost the confidence of a number of institutional investors while Tucker is widely respected for his success in developing the company's Asian operations up until his resignation in mid-2003.

BT Group was higher by £0.06 to £2.06, adding to Wednesday's gains after Ofcom published consultation on proposed charge controls for the company's narrowband products for four years from October 1, 2005. The consultation proposed limits on how much BT can charge for key wholesale inputs such as call origination and call termination. Analysts feel the proposal is quite friendly to BT.

Somerfield gained £0.14 to £2.07. The company confirmed it received more offers regarding a possible bid. It says its board will investigate these offers and make an announcement in due course. Earlier Thursday, the Financial Times reported Robert Tchenguiz, Apax Partners and Barclays Private Equity may jointly bid £1.5 billion for Somerfield. The newspaper says Tchenguiz and his partners offered more than £2.00/share. Last month, Somerfield rejected £1.9-per-share offer from Iceland's Baugur.

France

Suez was higher by €0.47 to €20.74. ABN Amro upgraded its opinion of the shares to buy from add and lifted its target price by 5% to €23.7. Suez increases 2006 recurrent EPS by 13% on the back of the detailed new cost-cutting plan.

Scor gained €0.05 to €1.67. Standard & Poor's Ratings Services says its ratings and outlook (BBB+/Positive/--) for the company are unaffected by Thursday's earnings announcement for the financial year ended Dec. 31, 2004. Adds although these results are satisfactory, they are in line with expectations. Earlier Co. disclosed it had returned to full-year profit as it tabled net earnings of €68.7 million, a touch above expectations, for 2004 after a loss of €314 million in 2003 when it made provisions to cover U.S. underwriting glitches.

Total added €0.80 to €179.70. CSFB lifted its oil price forecasts for fiscal 2005 through fiscal 2007 and extends explicit forecast period out to 2009.

Vivendi Universal rose €0.14 to €23.54 after Deutsche Bank added the stock to its Pan-European Focus List following upgrade to buy price target increase to €27.50 on raised valuations for Media, Games, Canal+ and NBCU. Separately, Viviendi has completed its plan to unwind the interest-rate swaps on its variable-rate debt, which was repaid following recent asset disposals.

Germany

Deutsche Bank rose €0.38 to €66.58 after its CEO Josef Ackermann reiterated its goal of increasing pretax return on equity before restructuring charges this year to 25%.

Thyssen Krupp added €0.03 to €16.17.CSFB says while steel equities may suffer short term given no immediate catalysts, looking through this it continues to believe a limited de-stocking phase in the U.S. and Europe (helped by production discipline, and a tight Asian market) will lead into possible recovery in 2H05 and through 2006. CSFB remains neutral on the compamny, not least given the risks over its auto components business, as well as higher stainless exposure.

Infineon added €0.10 to €7.45. S&P Equity Research upped its target to €7 from €6.5, with a sell rating. Separately, global semiconductor excess inventory will end during the next quarter after chipmakers scale back production plans, according to research from ISuppli. The report says the excess inventory will be completely cleared out in the April-to-June period after falling 24% to US$780 million, or 4 days' worth of stock.


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