Martin Flanagan: Wiseman looks clever as Müller debates takeover

SCOTTISH dairy company Robert Wiseman will remain in the stock market spotlight this week as talks continue with yoghurt giant Müller about the German business potentially making a takeover bid.

Shares in East Kilbride‑based Wiseman may rise further this morning, analysts said yesterday, after they closed up 25 per cent, or 84p, at 328p on Friday after the stock exchange announcement of the talks.

More than a third of the dairy’s shares are owned by the Wiseman family. This means a potential windfall of about £80 million if a deal is done at around Friday’s closing price.

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However, some analysts said there could as likely be a hiatus this week, with little new information emerging as, under the City’s takeover code, Müller has until a deadline of 10 February to either make a firm offer for the group or confirm it will not make one.

Elsewhere, shoppers are expected to have inflicted more pain on PC World and Currys owner Dixons Retail after cutting back on expensive electrical items over Christmas.

The British Retail Consortium recently reported that sales of big ticket items, such as TVs, were hard to shift over Christmas, although one bright spot was tablet and laptop computers. Dixons, which has 640 stores in the UK and Ireland, has suffered falls in sales and profits in recent months but has won a bitter price war with rivals after Comet was sold for £2 and BestBuy threw in the towel in the UK.

The City is expecting Dixons to reveal like-for-like sales declines of between 6 to 8 per cent in the three months to the end of December,

However, squeezed consumer spending is thought to have benefited budget fashion chain, Primark, owned by Associated British Foods.

Primark reported a 3 per cent increase in like-for-like sales in the year to 17 September, and further growth is expected when its posts an update on Thursday.

Weeks after the number of Burberry’s Facebook friends hit ten million, the luxury fashion brand is set to reveal tomorrow that recent sales reflected its global popularity.

The number of “fans” of the British label hit the milestone earlier this month, making it the world’s most admired luxury digital brand.

Julian Easthope, an analyst at Barclays Capital, expects Burberry to post a 10 per cent improvement in like-for-like sales in the final three months of 2011.

Greene King, owner of Belhaven in Scotland, also puts out its latest trading statement tomorrow, and is expected to have continued to benefit from more families eating out over the festive period. GK’s main brands also include Loch Fyne and Hungry Horse.

Pub group JD Wetherspoon reports on Wednesday and is also expected to say that pub eating took off over Christmas.

Widespread high street discounting and more than one million 16- to 24-year-olds unemployed are expected to have taken their toll on online fashion retailer Asos when it updates the market on Thursday. The group, which sells clothes based on outfits first worn by celebrities, has seen a slowdown in UK sales growth in recent months although this has been offset by a storming performance overseas.

The Office for National Statistics is expected to say tomorrow that inflation fell to about 4.3 per cent in December from 4.8 in November.