Micro Focus International gains on bid rumors

| March 2, 2011
Micro Focus International gains on bid rumors

Equities markets in Europe were lower Wednesday on rising crude oil prices and on concerns about continuing turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East as both situations represented threads to the global economy.

The FTSE 100 was down 0.35 percent to 5,914.89 in London, while the FTSE 250 dropped 0.27 percent to 11,543.4.

Micro Focus International (LSE: MCRO) added 9.49 percent to lead gains on the 250, on rumors that German software group SAP (FWB: SAP) and US computer giant International Business Machines (NYSE: IBM) might be interested in bidding for the IT group.

Over on the 100, governments services specialist Serco Group (LSE: SRP) turned in the best performance as it gained 4.6 percent.

Banks were mixed, with Standard Chartered (LSE: STAN) the biggest gainer in the sector as it added 4.33 percent after it reported profits up 28 percent last year and forecast more advances in 2011, followed by Lloyds Banking Group (LSE: LLOY), which was 1.59 percent higher, while Royal Bank of Scotland was the biggest decliner in the sector, dropping 0.23 percent.

Miners were mixed, with Hochschild Mining (LSE: HOC) up 2.79 percent, followed by Vedanta Resources (LSE: VED) with a gain of 2.11 percent, while Centamin Egypt (LSE: CEY) was down 3.04 percent for the worst day in the sector.

The energy sector was mostly lower, led by Heritage Oil (LSE: HOIL) with a decline of 4.24 percent, while Exillon Energy (LSE: EXI) was the biggest gainer in the sector, adding 5.09 percent, followed by a 1.84 percent gain for Cairn Energy (LSE: CNE).

Hotels and restaurants operator Whitbread (LSE: WTB) led declines on the 100 and in the travel and leisure sector as it dropped 5.19 percent after it said that revenue growth in its Premier Inn chain of hotels slowed and that sales grew more slowly at its Costa Coffee coffee house chain.

TUI Travel (LSE: TT) was also lower, falling 2.53 percent, while the best performance in the travel and leisure sector came from online gambler PartyGaming (LSE: PRTY), which added 1.69 percent.

Risk insurer Beazley (LSE: BEZ) dropped 7.55 percent for the worst performance on the 250.

Media group ITV (LSE: ITV) added 9.3 percent on positive full-year results after it cut costs and sold more advertising.

The FTSE Eurofirst 300 was down 0.58 percent to 1,155.2 while the Dax fell 0.58 percent to 7,181.12, the CAC-40 was 0.81 percent lower to 4,034.32 and the IBEX dropped 1.1 percent to 10,643.8.

Markets in the Asia-Pacific region were lower as oil prices gained on reports of new violence in Libya and on more demonstrations in Iran.

The exception was a 3.5 percent gain for India’s Sensex, to 18,446.5 as carmakers were up on higher sales in February and after the government did not raise excise duties on motor vehicles as it had been expected to do.

The Nikkei 225 was down 2.43 percent to 10,492.4 in Tokyo, while the Topix index was 2.16 percent lower to 942.87 and the Mothers market dropped 0.54 percent to 509.32 as oil prices rose and the yen was stronger.

There were only to gainers on the Nikkei.

Yahoo Japan (TYO: 4689) added 3.7 percent on reports that Yahoo (NAS: YHOO) is in discussions to sell its 35 percent stake in Yahoo Japan to Softbank Corp (TYO: 9984), although Softbank, which already owns a 41.9 percent stake in Yahoo Japan, said it does not plan to make the purchase.

The other gainer on the Nikkei was oil refiner Showa Shell Sekiyu (TYO: 5002), which was up 5.7 percent.

Sharp Corporation (TYO: 6753) dropped 4.8 percent after Morgan Stanley downgraded the consumer electronics manufacturer from “overweight” to “equal weight”, saying that Sharp has not cut costs as needed and that demand for its liquid crystal displays could decline.

Video game maker Nintendo (TYO: 7974) was down 3.7 percent.

Other decliners included the Shanghai Composite, which was down 0.18 percent to 2,913.81, and Australia’s markets, as the Sydney Ordinaries dropped 0.45 percent to 4,898.3 and the S&P/ASX200 fell 0.48 percent to 4,803.2.

South Korea’s Kospi was 0.57 percent lower to 1,928.24 after yesterday’s closure for a public holiday, while the Taiex was down 1.23 percent to 8,619.9 in Taiwan, the Straits Times Index fell 1.31 percent to 3,027.5 in Singapore and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1.49 percent to 23,048.7.

New York markets were higher in early afternoon trade as the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.14 percent to 12,075.3, while at the same time the S&P 500 was up 0.21 percent to 1,309.08 and the Nasdaq Composite was 0.48 percent higher to 2,750.63.

Crude oil prices were higher after Libyan military planes made air strikes near a Libyan oil terminal, with April contracts for West Texas Intermediate crude up $1.86 to $101.49 per barrel at just before 1 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange and Brant crude was last reported up $1.30 to $116.72 per barrel.

Metals prices were also up in New York trade, with April gold adding $6.60 to $1,437.80 per troy ounce after achieving a new closing high in floor trade yesterday.

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