Bryce Elder

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Bryce is a sporadic Alphaville contributor and has been the FT’s UK equities reporter since 2008. Before that he wrote about UK equities at Morningstar. Before that he wrote about UK equities at The Times. Before that he wrote about UK equities at Bloomberg. Before that he wrote about UK equities at AFX News. Before that he did not write about UK equities.

The wisdom of crowds, Brexit edition







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Friday RAW: are bidders circling Sobi again?

Lately, M&A reporting has been going a bit gonzo. This week alone we’ve had a recruitment website claim that Occidental Petroleum was about to buy Apache (denied) and reports on a Spanish-language site that Reckitt Benckiser had outbid P&G in an auction to buy Church & Dwight (also denied). Meanwhile, the more reputed media were running with stories about Bayer bidding for Monsanto (first denied, then confirmed).

This upsurge in bum steers, bogus denials and half-baked tales in obscure places makes FT Alphaville’s RAW warning ever more essential. Please, read the damn warning.

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What’s the point of Sports Direct’s profit warning?

There’s something a bit funny about today’s profit alert from Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct International. Here it is in full:

Since our interim results on 10 December 2015, we have seen a deterioration of trading conditions on the high street and a continuation of the unseasonal weather over the key Christmas period. As a result, we are no longer confident of meeting our adjusted underlying EBITDA target (before share scheme costs) of £420m for the full year. In light of these factors, and in anticipation of similar trading conditions between now and the end of April, management’s current expectation for the full year is for adjusted underlying EBITDA (before share scheme costs) of between £380m and £420m.

So, four weeks after its interim results, Sports Direct has reset full-year guidance to imply a 6 per cent downgrade against consensus forecasts, based on the middle of the range. But note the brackets. Read more

Making sense of Argosbury

A J Sainsbury bear hug on Home Retail Group, the owner of Argos, has proved quite unpopular. News of Sainsbury’s November cash-and-shares offer to buy Home Retail led the grocer’s shares to be marked 5 per cent lower, cutting its market value by £300m — equivalent to nearly a third of the market cap of its target.

Jefferies’s James Grzinic sums things up: Read more

Relypsa: the next US biotech M&A target? reports:

Merck & Co (NYSE: MRK) plans to make a non-binding offer to acquire Relypsa, (Nasdaq: RLYP), a biopharmaceutical company with a market cap of over $900 million, according to a source claiming to have direct knowledge of the situation. A price could not be learned.

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Plus ça change at Plus500

Today’s update from Plus500, the Israel-based Contracts for Difference broker whose takeover by Playtech collapsed on unspecified regulatory hurdles, appears to contain one bit of very good news.

The Group is not subject to restrictions imposed by any of its regulators.

But what does it mean? Read more

Here’s that Imperial Tobacco RAW in full

Frankly, we’re sick of this. You are too, most likely. None of us wants to spend another day being strafed by rumour, counter rumour and unguided speculation about tobacco M&A. We’ve slogged through too many balance-of-probabilities analyses. We’ve had more than our fill of noncommittal steers during conversations with unattributable people familiar with things. It’s been going on for three solid months, and that’s enough. Consider this an intervention.

The Imperial Tobacco bid theory will follow after the RAW disclaimer. Read the disclaimer.

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A long day’s journey into Knightsbridge

This should’ve been easy. Read more

RAW alert: XenoPort targeted by US peer?

XenoPort, a US small-cap drug maker and former GlaxoSmithKline partner, is a rumoured takeover target for sector peer Supernus Pharmaceuticals.

According to usually reliable people, Supernus has put an offer on the table of around $7.40 per share for XenoPort, which would value the latter at $470m. Takeover speculation has already lifted XenoPort by 18 per cent in the past week, taking its gain over the past month to 40 per cent after the company effectively put itself up for sale. Read more

Desperately seeking Hejun

It appears that Li Hejun, chairman and majority shareholder of Hanergy Thin Film Power, spent his morning at the opening ceremony for the Hanergy “clean energy expo centre” in Beijing. For verification, Hanergy’s press office sent this photo of Mr Li (centre) with some unidentified people from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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US telco RAW alert: nTelos targeted by Shentel?

Rumours are reaching FT Alphaville that nTelos, a US regional wireless company, is a takeover target for Shenandoah Telecommunications.

Shenandoah (better known as Shentel) has been putting together a knockout $200m offer for the Virginia-based mobile broadband provider, a nearly 50 per cent premium to Tuesday’s closing value, according to people claiming direct knowledge of the negotiations. A price of around $9.25 a share has been all but agreed, they said, against Tuesday’s close of $6.20. Read more

Earth to investors: G4S has not restated earnings — Update

There are times when the hoax is so elaborate, you have to look beyond the attempted deception and admire the handiwork.

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Shire-AbbVie: arbitrage against the machine

Cold feet or negotiation tactic? No one knows. And the people prepared to guess were 25 per cent wrong about Shire’s price this time yesterday, so their views should be taken with a degree of caution.

Nevertheless, here are the basics on the potential collapse of Abbvie’s $54bn takeover of the UK drugmaker.

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Welcoming The People’s Operator, a £100m+ MVNO

No — we don’t yet have the prospectus for The People’s Operator, a mobile firm that has announced plans to list on Aim with a reported market value of more than £100m. But we do have its most recent accounts, which make it possible to back engineer what the prospectus might say. Read more

The muppet market in numbers

For disappointment, dashed hopes, false dawns, broken promises, under-delivery and consistently dolorous failure, there’s little to match Aim. London’s junior market has proved time and again to be a money pit. Read more

No, Betfair has not just called the Scottish Referendum

Doing the rounds on Twitter this afternoon ….

Betfair advert

The important word there is “sportsbook”.

Betfair’s exchange has become a much-watched sentiment indicator for the Scottish vote. This is where gamblers bet against each other directly and the house extracts a rake for providing the market. At pixel time, £8.8m has been matched on the punter-to-punter exchange. Read more

HFTs dark materials

Fans of schadenfreude may enjoy the following press release from Barclays, dated February 26, 2013, to publicise that …

Barclays LX now #2 US dark pool

LX is what Eric Schneiderman, the US state attorney-general, describes as a “dark pool full of predators – there at Barclays’ invitation”. His lawsuit alleges that Barclays was putting high-frequency traders in front of institutional investors, while sending bumf to the institutions that claimed the HFTs were being weeded out. Read more

Matchmaking Shire, again

We believe an AGN bid for SHPG is imminent and more attractive than VRX’s proposal.

So says John T. Boris, a managing director at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. His is not a new idea. Shire has long been seen the obvious poison pill for Allergan, the Botox maker, which could use more bulk to fight off a $53bn hostile approach from Valeant. Read more

Carried out

That’s JP Morgan Cazenove repeating its 290p target on Just Eat, a fast food delivery website it co-floated in April for 260p apiece.

Wait … what’s that about a correction? Read more

About that AstraZeneca bid defence …

The nationalistic bluster around AstraPfizica remains blustery. Here, for example, is London Mayor Boris Johnson:

It would be very important to establish that Pfizer is genuinely committed to R&D in this country. I believe in principle that we should have an open system of markets in this country, but when I look at something like AstraZeneca and I look at an organization of that scale, of its relative importance to the UK economy, the sheer percentage of its money that goes into R&D, I think it is of great importance to Britain.

With that in mind, it’s worth taking a closer look at the experimental drug pipeline AstraZeneca has highlighted in its defence statement. These are the drugs that management expects to deliver an incremental $19bn of sales from 2017 to 2023, equivalent to 10 per cent revenue growth per annum: Read more

On the Blinkx — Update

At pixel time we still await Blinkx’s official response to allegations of questionable practices made by Benjamin Edelman, an associate professor at Harvard Business School and a self-proclaimed sheriff of the internet advertising industry. Blinkx shares traded down as much as 51.6 per cent on the claims, knocking about £400m off its market value.

What we do have is a note from Citigroup, Blinkx’s joint house broker. In the interests of market stability we repeat it in full below, albeit with minimal fiskingRead more

AstraZeneca said to eye Forest Labs bid

What’s been lighting a fire under Forest Laboratories?

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Premature dissemination, Bloomberg style

Bloomberg News prides itself on market-moving scoops. Today its reporters excelled themselves, getting Citigroup’s Q3 earnings out a full 29 minutes before they were due.

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Blackberry, bricked

Blackberry’s logo (below) resembles nothing as much as a hail of seven silver bullets. It appears the gun has been pointing the wrong way.

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An intriguing Delaware filing

NHI Wind Read more

Vodamort and the Chamber of Secrets

Today marked the rarest of events: a Vodafone statement that directly references its joint venture partner.

The last time we had a mention of Verizon Communications outside the boilerplate on a Vodafone stock market announcement was back in 2007, when Arun Sarin was bounced (by this blog) into denying the existence of Project Vulture. It seems that Verizon, like Lord Voldemort, shall not be named. Read more

Ballmer at Microsoft: an annotated shareprice

Mouse over…

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Bidders said to circle Zoltek

Friday afternoon RAW klaxon. Buyer beware. Usual wealth warnings apply.

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Unconventional stimulus, the Bloomberg way

Bloomberg Businessweek cover

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Vodafone-Verizon: a $245bn solution — UPDATE 2

Hello to the City’s new watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority. It may seem rude to make requests on your first working day but there’s a market rumour on which we would like some clarity. It involves what would be the biggest M&A deal ever, and it’s on your patch. Read more