Footsie in the black

A rush of dealmaking activity stirred investors during a steady session for the London market today.

As well as the merger of steel giants Mittal and Arcelor, the City digested news of a proposed deal for hotels group De Vere and the potential pairings of Stanley Leisure and London Clubs International and Balfour Beatty and Birse.

The excitement lifted the FTSE 250 Index 9.4 points higher to 9204.6 while the FTSE 100 Index held firm at 5694.7, a gain of 2.6 points at mid-morning.

Shares in mid-cap stock De Vere put on 4% or 31p to 845.5p after it agreed a £723.5 million takeover by Alternative Hotels Group, which is owned by Malmaison and Hotel du Vin boss Richard Balfour-Lynn.

It was followed up the FTSE 250 leaderboard by Stanley Leisure – up 13.5p to 648.5p – after the casino operator confirmed it was in talks over a possible merger with London Clubs International. Shares in London Clubs were unchanged at 107p.

And civil engineering firm Birse was up 19% or 2.5p to 16p after it backed a £32 million takeover by larger rival Balfour Beatty, although shares in Balfour drifted lower until recovering to stand unchanged at 329.75p.

In the top flight, shares in Anglo-Dutch steel maker Corus fluctuated after an agreed deal between global giants Arcelor and Mittal lifted hopes of further consolidation in the sector. The stock had been at the top of the risers board but later faded to stand 3.5p lower at 427.25p.

Other notable blue-chip moves came from Marks & Spencer, which rose 11p to 577p, while consumer products group Reckitt Benckiser was up 44p at 1940p, even though it looked to have missed out in the auction of Pfizer’s consumer healthcare arm.

Elsewhere, British Airways remained under pressure, down 4.25p to 343.25p following last week’s news of an official investigation into fuel surcharges.

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