Vodafone rises on talk of £65bn sale

FTSE 100 heavyweight Vodafone helped the index ring up its third day of gains in a row amid further signs that it could sell its US business.

The telecoms giant added 3.2p to 196.4p on reports that partner Verizon had hired advisers to prepare a possible £65 billion bid for Vodafone’s stake in the pair’s US joint venture.

Ronnie Chopra, head of strategy at Tradenext, said: “This is great news for Vodafone and its shareholders, and if it goes through investors can expect a bumper dividend on top of the generous near 6 per cent annual yield they currently get.”

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The Footsie was little affected by the better-than-expected UK GDP figure, after making recent gains on the back of expectations that a deteriorating economy would pave the way for more stimulus from central banks. The top flight was 10.83 points higher at 6,442.59 while the FTSE 250 Index, where earnings are more UK-focused, rose above 14,000 following a gain of 0.8 per cent. News that the UK dodged an unprecedented triple-dip recession did lift the pound, which gained more than 1 per cent against the dollar at around $1.54.

The difficult climate for the household goods sector remained a concern after disappointing updates both sides of the Atlantic. Procter & Gamble frustrated Wall Street by cutting its forecasts for the current quarter, while Unilever provided its own cautious update by reporting a slow start to the ice cream season in Europe. Its shares were 85p cheaper at 2,760p, sending rival Reckitt Benckiser down 55p at 4,648p.

Elsewhere in the top flight, insurer Standard Life continued to benefit from Wednesday’s better-than-expected trading update, improving a further 11.2p to 391.9p.

NEW YORK: Wall Street rose last night, lifted by stronger than expected earnings reports in New York and by a large drop in weekly US jobless claims.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 27.41 points, or 0.19 per cent, to close at 14,703.71 while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index edged up 6.56 points, or 0.42 per cent, to end the day on 1,585.35.

The Nasdaq Composite Index closed up 20.33 points, or 0.62 per cent, at 3,289.99.