UK TOP NEWS SUMMARY: Entain Gets Takeover Interest From US Partner MGM

(Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories ...

Alliance News 4 January, 2021 | 10:14AM
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(Alliance News) - The following is a summary of top news stories Monday.

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COMPANIES

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Entain confirmed it has received a takeover proposal from US partner MGM Resorts International. Shares in the Ladbrokes Coral owner were 26% higher at 1,428.00 pence each on Monday. Entain said: "Under the terms of its most recent proposal, MGMRI would offer 0.6 MGMRI shares for each Entain share. Based on closing prices on 31 December 2020, being the last trading day prior to this announcement, MGMRI's proposal represents a value of 1,383 pence per Entain share and a premium of 22% to Entain's share price." The company said Entain shareholders would own just shy of 42% of the enlarged company under the terms of the offer. Entain, however, said it told MGM the potential offer "significantly undervalues the company and its prospects". MGM has until February 1 to make a firm offer or walk away.

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Ferguson has sold its heating & plumbing distribution business Wolseley UK to US private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice for GBP308 million, having previously separated the UK business in preparation for a potential London listing. In the financial year that ended July 31, the unit generated revenue of USD1.88 billion. The sale means Ferguson can "focus entirely" on its North American business, noted Chief Executive Kevin Murphy. "We are confident the business will benefit from working with its new owners, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice who will develop the business further by focusing on continued opportunities in the industry," added Murphy.

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AstraZeneca has completed the divestment of commercial rights to Atacand and Atacand Plus in over 70 countries to Cheplapharm Arzneimittel. The British-Swedish pharmaceutical company said it has received a payment of USD250 million from Cheplapharm. Under the terms of the agreement, Astra also will receive further non-contingent payments equal to USD150 million during the first half of 2021, it said. The consideration was and will be paid in cash, and the proceeds used for general corporate purposes, the Cambridge, England-headquartered company noted. Separately, first doses of the drugmaker's Covid-19 vaccine, developed alongside Oxford University, are set to be administered in the UK. Just over half a million doses of the newly approved vaccine will be available from Monday, with vulnerable groups already identified as the priority for immunisation.

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MARKETS

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Stock prices in London were higher on Monday, amid optimism over the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

"For now investors clearly believe the vaccine will provide the catalyst for a big recovery, perhaps after a tough first quarter, but getting enough of the population inoculated will be a big logistical challenge," AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould said.

The FTSE 100 also got a boost from gold miners Fresnillo and Polymetal, who were up 9.2% and 7.0% as the price of the yellow metal surged on Monday.

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FTSE 100: up 2.8% at 6,643.95

FTSE 250: up 1.5% at 20,801.10

AIM ALL-SHARE: up 0.8% at 1,165.88

GBP: up at USD1.3680 (USD1.3656)

EUR: soft at USD1.2295 (USD1.2273)

Gold: up sharply at USD1,931.27 per ounce (USD1,894.00)

Oil (Brent): up at USD52.44 a barrel (USD51.10)

(changes since previous London equities close)

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ECONOMICS AND GENERAL

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UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out another national lockdown in England amid concerns the new variant coronavirus is spreading out of control. With the latest data showing a 33% rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus patients in hospital in England between Christmas Day and January 2, he warned there would be "some very difficult weeks" to come. Asked about the prospect of another national lockdown, he acknowledged that the current restrictions were insufficient to control the spread of the disease. He told Sky News: "We don't rule anything out, and we've shown repeatedly that we will look at the public health advice and we will take the public health advice in terms of what is needed to control the spread of the disease."

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The UK's manufacturing sector registered its best performance in more than three years in December helped Brexit stockpiling IHS Markit said, though the industry was later hit by port delays and a slip in optimism. The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index rose to 57.5 in December, from 55.6 in November. Any number above 50.0 denotes expansion, and a number below, says the industry is in contraction territory. "The level of the PMI was mainly boosted by a marked lengthening of suppliers' delivery times and substantial increase in stocks of purchases as part of preparations before the end of the transition period," IHS Markit added. "However, port delays and other logistical disruptions meant that supply-chain delays lengthened to one of the greatest extents in the survey's history."

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The eurozone manufacturing sector rounded off a tricky 2020 on an "encouragingly strong note", IHS Markit said, helped largely by an increase in demand for German goods. IHS Markit's eurozone manufacturing purchasing managers' index climbed to 55.2 points in December, above the 50.0 neutral threshold and the 53.8 the PMI registered in November. It was, however, slightly below the flash reading of 55.5. December was the highest manufacturing PMI reading since May 2018. Ireland's manufacturing PMI reached a five-month high, while Austria, Italy, France, Spain and Greece notched two-month highs. In Netherlands, the PMI reading was a 27-month high, and Germany's manufacturing PMI surged to its highest level in 34 months.

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China's manufacturing sector continued to improve in December, albeit at the slowest rate in three months, figures from Caixin showed. The headline seasonally adjusted purchasing managers' index slipped to 53.0 points in the last month of 2020 from 54.9 in November and 53.6 in October. The December reading still signalled a healthy factory sector, as the Chinese economy continued to recover from the coronavirus outbreak. Weighing on the headline index was a slower increase in production during December.

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The Japanese manufacturing sector ended 2020 with operating conditions stabilising in December, the latest survey results from au Jibun Bank and IHS Markit showed. The headline au Jibun Bank Japan manufacturing purchasing managers' index rose to the 50.0 no-change threshold in December from 49.0 in November. This marked the highest reading of the PMI since April 2019, as the sector continued to gradually recover from damped operating conditions, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The improvement in the health of the Japanese manufacturing sector was supported by a stabilisation in output levels in December, the survey results showed.

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US officials on Sunday rejected Donald Trump's claim that the national Covid-19 death toll of more than 350,000 has been exaggerated, but defended the stumbling campaign to vaccinate millions of Americans. Some 4.2 million people in the US have received initial doses of the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna – far below official predictions of 20 million by the new year. The president blamed local authorities for the delays, tweeting that "the vaccines are being delivered to the states by the Federal Government far faster than they can be administered!" He also claimed that the number of cases and deaths was "far exaggerated" because of a "ridiculous method of determination," accusing the Centers for Disease Control of a policy of "When in doubt, call it Covid." In response, top US scientist Anthony Fauci said on ABC that "those are real numbers, real people and real deaths."

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