Markets: Takeover rumours push ITV higher

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Speculation that ITV is ripe for a takeover propelled the broadcaster onto the blue chip riser’s board today.

Its shares gained 2.8 per cent to 120.3p after a note from Citigroup included the firm in a list of potential takeover targets and stocks that may return cash to investors. The rumour mill then lined up Sir Philip Green and music mogul Simon Cowell as possible bidders.

The speculation follows a recent broker note from Nomura, which nudged its target price up to 130p and suggested the firm may be about to embark on a share buyback programme.

But the wider market struggled to make headway, with few economic releases to give it direction.

Wall Street could not provide a lead as US markets were closed for Presidents’ Day, and the FTSE 100 index closed down 10.1 points to 6,318.2.

Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG, said: “With commodity prices like gold continuing to lack appeal, the mining sector has dragged the FTSE lower, with the likes of Kazakhmys, Eurasian & Anglo American doing most of the damage.”

With copper hitting a three-week low, Anglo American was down 56p at 1,983p and Antofagasta dropped 21p at 1,098p. Eurasian and Kazakhmys slipped 12.4p and 20.5p at 390.3p and 726p respectively.

Outside the top flight, Irish food manufacturer Greencore bounced back from Friday’s rout, when it emerged that a beef bolognese sauce it supplied to Asda contained horse meat. Yesterday brokers said the firm had moved fast to limit its exposure to the ongoing scandal, as it announced that all its other lines had tested negative for horse DNA. The shares were up 7.5p or 8 per cent at 100p.

Shares in Trap Oil nudged higher after drilling began on the Scotney exploration well in the North Sea, in which it holds a stake. The company was up 0.9 per cent at 13.75p as it added that drilling of its next well, on the Magnolia prospect, was expected to start soon.

The first day of formal dealings in housebuilder Crest Nicholson saw shares fall 3.5p to 261.2p. The stock had first traded at 220p in conditional dealings last week but surged as investors welcomed 2013’s first big flotation.