Fin­nish in­ter­est lifts in­surer Hast­ings

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - Louis ash­worth

SHARES in in­surance group Hast­ings soared yes­ter­day af­ter it con­firmed it is in talks with Fin­nish in­surance group Sampo Oyj over a pos­si­ble cash of­fer for the London-listed com­pany.

The FTSE 250 group said it had been ap­proached by Sampo and Rand Mer­chant In­vest­ment Hold­ings Lim­ited – Hast­ings’ big­gest share­holder – over an of­fer.

Un­der the terms of the Takeover Code, Sampo and RMI now have 28 days to con­firm an of­fer for Hast­ings, which was founded in 1996 and pri­mar­ily pro­vides home and mo­tor in­surance poli­cies.

The pos­si­ble takeover was first re­ported by Bloomberg News. Hast­ings said: “There can be no cer­tainty that any firm of­fer will be made for the com­pany, nor as to the terms on which any of­fer might be made.”

An of­fer for the group – which had a val­u­a­tion of around £1.3bn at the end of the London ses­sion – would be the big­gest UK deal so far this year, giv­ing Sampo a foothold in the UK’s in­surance mar­ket.

Hast­ings’ share price jumped as much as 20pc in re­sponse to the news, end­ing the day up 30.6p at 200.6p.

The jump made Hast­ings the stand­out per­former on a flat day from London’s main mar­ket.

Re­tailer Next led ris­ers on the FTSE 100, hit­ting a four-month high on the back of its sec­ond-quar­ter up­date. It climbed 404p to £56.66 af­ter say­ing it ex­pects to make a profit this year af­ter tak­ing a smaller-thanex­pected sales hit due to the pan­demic.

Full-price sales in the sec­ond quar­ter tum­bled by 28pc, but that was bet­ter than eq­uity an­a­lysts’ fore­casts. Also ris­ing was pack­ag­ing group

Smur­fit Kappa, which climbed 118p to £26.00, a rise of 4.8pc, af­ter its board de­cided to pay an in­terim div­i­dend that re­places its scrapped April pay­out.

The group will pay out 80.9p per share, hav­ing scrapped pre­vi­ous pay­ment plans due to the pan­demic.

Its rev­enues fell 9pc in the first half of the year, down to €4.2bn (£3.8bn) com­pared to €4.6bn for the same pe­riod last year, push­ing its profit be­fore tax down 16pc to €383m.

Else­where, As­ton Martin shares drove higher on the back of hopes that de­mand is re­cov­er­ing in China. In June, the au­to­mo­bile com­pany reg­is­tered an 11pc rise in re­tail sales in China. Shares gained 6.42p to 56p.

Less for­tu­nate was Taylor Wim­pey, which led blue-chip fall­ers. The housebuild­er fell 10.75p to 122.2p af­ter swing­ing to a near-£40m loss for the first half of the year.

On the FTSE 250, Wizz Air rose 127p to £35.25 af­ter its first-quar­ter re­sults beat an­a­lysts’ ex­pec­ta­tions – de­spite an 87pc drop in rev­enues to €90.8m.

József Váradi, its chief ex­ec­u­tive, said the low-cost car­rier “main­tains strong mar­ket and liq­uid­ity po­si­tions”.

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