MONDAY MARKET CLOSE: Pfizer’s interest keeps FTSE on the up

The London market held on to modest gains despite concerns over the impact of new sanctions against Russia in response to the crisis in Ukraine.

Jasper Lawler, analyst at CMC Markets, said: “New sanctions on Russia from the US Treasury failed to significantly move European stock markets as the FTSE 100 consolidated around 6,700 and the German Dax drifted between 9,400 and 9,500.”

Pfizer’s continued interest in a possible UK record takeover of AstraZeneca helped the FTSE 100 Index climb 14.47 points to 6,700.16.

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AstraZeneca shares soared by 14 per cent or 586.5p to a new record high of 4,666.5p, with the City is currently betting that Pfizer will succeed with a better offer as Astra’s price is higher than the 4,611p proposed in January.

The activity helped fellow pharmaceuticals company Shire rise 76p to 3,286p but GlaxoSmithKline drifted 2p to 1,653p after making strong gains last week.

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Elsewhere, BG Group endured a rollercoaster session after it announced that Chris Finlayson had resigned as chief executive. It also warned that production this year will be towards the lower end of expectations due to the ongoing issues in Egypt but shares recovered from a weak start to finish a penny higher at 1,146p

Mining stocks were under pressure as Rio Tinto fell 93p to 3,185.5p, BHP Billiton dropped 21.5p to 1,902.5p and Anglo American eased 14p to 1,519p. Other high-profile fallers in the top flight included Royal Bank of Scotland, which fell 7.7p to 295.5p, and Royal Mail after a drop of 8p to 511.5p.

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In a statement issued after the market closed, household brands giant Reckitt Benckiser confirmed it was discussions with Merck regarding an offer for its consumer health business. Shares had earlier fallen 113p to 4,842p.