Markets

Friday's most followed: ITV, Victoria Oil & Gas, Premier Foods, Xstrata, PLUS Markets, RIT Capital Partners, MoneySupermarket.com

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One of this week’s heaviest fallers in the FTSE 100, broadcaster ITV (LON:ITV), was one of the most talked about companies today after seeing its share price fall by a further 3.3 percent to 70.5 pence amid expectations of tough conditions in the TV advertising market this summer.

ITV was one of the most popular searches on Google Finance today as traders looked for the latest reports on the TV advertising market and the potential impact it could have on the group’s financialresults.

Investec (LON:INVP) today decided to downgrade the stock to ‘sell’ from ‘hold’, saying that the tough macroeconomic environment is offsetting the expected boost to the advertising market from the upcoming London Olympics and the European football championship.

ITV’s target price was reduced to 60 pence per share from 90 pence previously.

“While we applaud new management for attacking what was arguably a complacent and inward looking business from the bottom up, our mid-term negative view on free-to-air broadcast remains,” said Investec analyst Steve Liechti.

“Transformation plans are still subject to execution risk as mid-term competitive pressures from other digital distribution channels continue.”

Oil and gas small cap Victoria Oil & Gas (LON:VOG) also ranked high among Google searches after announcing that it is raising nearly £4 million including a placing of £3.15 million at a price of three percent and a drawdown of £780,000 from a loan facility.

The group has also completed the second leg of its gas pipeline in Douala in Cameroon, giving it access to more than 20 large industrial energy consumers.

Other companies that made headlines included BP (LON:BP.), which has decided to sell its stake in its Russian joint venture TNK-BP and Premier Foods (LON:PFD), whose chairman Ronnie Bell has stepped down, pushing its shares down 6.5 percent to 101.75 pence in early deals.

Bell will be replaced as the FTSE 250 food group’s chairman by senior independent director David Beever.

In the first quarter, Britain’s largest food producer saw sales of its eight 'power brands' including Ambrosia, Batchelors, Bisto, Hovis, Loyd Grossman, Mr.Kipling, Oxo and Sharwood's rise 3.7 percent, resulting in a 1.3 percent increase to £427 million from a year earlier.

At the end of the 2011 financial year the company had a net debt of £995.1 million after buying up brands such as Homepride and Fray Bentos. In March, Premier’s lenders agreed to extend its £1.2 billion banking facilities from 2013-2016 to support the growth strategies.

While Premier’s chairman is quitting, it was reported that Xstrata (LON:XTA) has decided to pay its chief executive Mick Davis nearly £29 million to stay in charge of the company for three years following the anticipated merger with commodities trader Glencore (LON:GLEN).

Meanwhile, PLUS Markets Group (LON:PMK) again found itself at the centre of attention as it rejected a bid form Gulf Merchant Bank, which tried to start a bidding war.

GMB's letter to PLUS yesterday contained a proposal with a headline consideration that appeared to be greater than that offered by ICAP, the group said.

According to PLUS, the GMB proposal is “materially less attractive” than the ICAP offer, in terms of the overall financial benefit for shareholders.

Furthermore, the group said ICAP was an appropriate owner of the PLUS stock exchange, having proved as a company that cam e successfully manage and grow high turnover electronic platforms.

ICAP already acts as a broker in exchange products and is a full member of the world’s largest exchanges.

“Accordingly, on the basis of the currently available information, the board continues to recommend the Proposed Disposal of PLUS-SX to ICAP, as described in the circular,” PLUS said in a stock exchange statement today.

The announcement form PLUS made the list of the most read RNS statements, as did today’s full year results from RIT Capital Partners (LON:RCP) and the acquisition of MoneySavingExpert.com by MoneySupermarket.com Group (LON:MONY) for £87 million.

The group will pay £35 million upfront in cash along with 22.1 million shares, followed by deferred payments of up to £27 million.

The personal finance website was acquired from personal finance journalist Martin Lewis, who established it in 2003.

The site attracted approximately 39 million unique visitors and approximately 277 million page impressions in the year to end October. So far in 2012, the website has generated earnings of £12.6 million on revenues of £15.8 million.

MoneySupermarket.com is MoneySavingExpert's largest provider, accounting for more than half of its revenues.

The results from fellow FTSE 250 constituent RIT revealed a significant increase in its dividend to 28 pence per share.

The investment trust’s net asset value per share fell 3.1 percent from the previous year to 1,249.3 pence per share.

In the year to May 25, NAV fell by a further 3.4 percent to 1,207 pence per share, however, the group noted that the MSCI World Index in Sterling has fallen 7.4 percent during the same period.

In the report, the group highlighted the strengthening of its ties to the Rothschild family through its joint venture with Edmond de Rothschild Group and appointment of Baroness Ariane de Rothschild as its honorary vice chairman.

This year, the group has established a strategic partnership with Rockefeller & Co including acquisition of a significant minority stake.

“The Western world may have finally woken up last year: it realised that the crash of 2008 was not just another market event, quickly to be recovered from. Recovery may come, but not in months,” said chairman of RIT Lord Rothschild

“Unless one has a long horizon, investment success in public markets has become a game of timing rather than fundamentals.

“I have no doubt that the links we have forged with distinguished groups such as Rockefeller, Edmond de Rothschild and Creat in the USA, Europe and China can only help us in our endeavours in the years ahead.”



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