Buy­out talk drives FirstGroup higher

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - Louis ash­worth mar­ket re­port

SHARES in trans­port op­er­a­tor FirstGroup jumped yes­ter­day af­ter The Sun­day Tele­graph re­vealed buy­out funds were cir­cling parts of its US op­er­a­tions.

The group climbed 10.7p to 50.5p, lead­ing ris­ers on the FTSE 250.

Sources said Ca­nary Wharf owner Brook­field, Apollo Global Man­age­ment and KKR were all among the po­ten­tial buy­ers for FirstS­tu­dent and FirstTran­sit – the mid-cap’s most prof­itable di­vi­sions.

An­a­lysts es­ti­mate the two di­vi­sions could fetch around $4bn (£3bn) if sold. FirstGroup’s en­tire mar­ket cap is only around £600m cur­rently. De­spite the surge, the group’s shares are still down more than 60pc this year.

Hot on its heels was Coun­try Life mag­a­zine pub­lisher Fu­ture, which shot up 268p to a record high of £17.22 af­ter it said full-year prof­its should be “ma­te­ri­ally ahead” of ex­pec­ta­tions.

The FTSE 250 group said strong traf­fic trends on its web­sites had con­tin­ued in re­cent months, with or­ganic unique vis­i­tors to its sites from the UK and US up 25pc and 40pc re­spec­tively in Au­gust, com­pared to 2019. Fu­ture said: “Com­bined with a bet­ter-than-ex­pected per­for­mance of

TI Me­dia in the sec­ond half, full-year ad­justed op­er­at­ing profit is now ex­pected to be ma­te­ri­ally ahead of cur­rent mar­ket ex­pec­ta­tions.”

Fu­ture said the in­te­gra­tion of TI Me­dia, which it pur­chased last year, was pro­gress­ing well, with high­erthan-ex­pected syn­er­gies of around £20m ex­pected to be re­alised by the end of 2021.

Zil­lah Byng-Thorne, chief ex­ec­u­tive, said the group was “well po­si­tioned to ben­e­fit from the con­tin­ued shift to dig­i­tal me­dia as we grow our global au­di­ences”.

The two were the stand­out ris­ers on a strong day for Lon­don’s main in­dices.

The FTSE 100 jumped 2.4pc to 5,937.4, claw­ing back some of the ground it lost over sev­eral painful ses­sions last week. The index’s per­for­mance was boosted by a sharp fall in the value of the pound, which was rat­tled by re­ports that the Gov­ern­ment may tear up part of the with­drawal agree­ment with the EU.

Gains were wide­spread, with house­builders in­clud­ing Tay­lor Wim­pey and Bar­ratt ris­ing along­side prop­erty por­tal Right­move af­ter Hal­i­fax said UK house prices had risen to an all-time high in Au­gust.

Min­ers also per­formed well, with pre­cious metal min­ers Fres­nillo and Poly­metal among the big­gest ris­ers, de­spite a slight dip in the price of gold.

Equip­ment hire firm Ashtead rose 132p to £26.93 ahead of re­sults to­day.

Trans­port groups fell as the UK in­tro­duced new quar­an­tine re­stric­tions on trav­ellers re­turn­ing from sev­eral Greek is­lands. Bri­tish Air­ways owner IAG was the big­gest blue-chip faller, down 10.2p at 209.2p, while easy­Jet and Wizz Air both lost ground on the FTSE 250.

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