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Company News

PRESS DIGEST - British business - Feb 17

The Times

LOCKHEED MARTIN MAY FLY TO THE DEFENCE OF VT

American defence giant Lockheed Martin LMT.N could step in as a "white knight" bidder as support services company VT Group VTG.L seeks a way out of Babcock International's BAB.L hostile takeover approach. VT Group rejected Babcock's Monday night cash-and-shares offer after chief executive Paul Lester dismissed it as being "strategically challenged". Although the Lockheed proposal is unconfirmed, it has shown an interest in VT Group in the past. Lester's dismissal of Babcock's offer was greeted unfavourably by some leading shareholders who suggested that a merger between VT's Royal Air Force contracts and Babcock's Royal Navy interests would deliver improved synergies.

SIRIUS SHINES BRIGHTLY ON AIM

Sirius Petroleum SRSP.L is expected to reveal within a fortnight that it has invested in Nigerian oil reserves. On Tuesday, investors were informed that news of the first Nigerian asset could be announced in the near future, and the market is confidently predicting that a deal to buy an asset with a proven yield of 20 billion barrels will be unveiled within a fortnight. Two Thai businessmen have increased speculation by pledging to reverse 500,000 dollars of oil and gas assets into Sirius in return for a controlling stake. Sirius shares rose by 1.125 pence to close at 8.25 pence.

DEAL OF THE DAY

Shares in information technology specialist Nexus Management NEXMA.L rose on Tuesday, following the announcement that it would monitor and maintain a major U.S. Internet and telephone provider's network. The partnership deal with GWI will involve the upkeep of its infrastructure in the U.S. state of Maine. Nexus has also won an outsourcing contract with advertising company Promotion Space Group.

BET OF THE DAY

Rexam REX.L, the packing specialist, has seen its target price edge towards 400 pence after ending 0.2 pence easier at 282 pence. Annual results this morning will be checked for cost-cutting, debt reduction and dividends. IG Index's price is 297.52 pence to 280.28 pence.

RUMOUR OF THE DAY

Rumours of bid interest in property services group Liberty International LII.L have gained ground after the world's largest shopping centre operator, Simon Property Group, offered 6.3 billion pounds for its U.S. rival, General Growth Properties. Liberty International is currently considering a demerger of its 4.4 billion pound shopping centre business.

TIDDLER TO WATCH

Shares in Electric Word rose 0.38 pence to 4.75 pence, after the online provider of sport and education information posted an eight percent rise in annual profits to 1.9 million pounds. The firm’s broker Panmure Gordon reiterated its “buy” stance, saying that Electric World’s valuation and strategy should provide investors with encouragement this year.

TEMPUS

InterContinental Hotels IHG.L (hold)

Green Dragon Gas (steer clear)

Low & Bonar (hold)

The Daily Telegraph

BP’S RUSSIA TIE-UP PUSHES FOR GROWTH

TNK-BP, the joint venture between British oil major BP BP.L and four Russian oligarchs, has hired former Morgan Stanley banker Stan Miroshnik to pursue growth in the Arctic and east Siberia. Miroshnik, a former executive director at the investment bank, will join TNK-BP as vice president of strategy and business development. He replaces Maxim Barsky who will become chief executive next year. The company has undergone a major management shake-up, following a drawn-out battle for control between BP and its oligarch partners.

VODAFONE OVERTAKES HSBC AS UK’S MOST VALUABLE BRAND

An annual survey of the world's top 500 brands -- conducted by consultancy Brand Finance -- ranks Vodafone VOD.L as the UK's most valuable brand. The telecoms firm rose one place on the previous year's ranking to seventh on the global list, taking the spot previously held by HSBC HSBA.L. HSBC slipped one notch to eighth. The ranking calculates the value of a brand using a benchmarking system which reviews strength, risk, future potential and financial strength.

QUESTOR

Hargreaves Services HASE.L (buy)

Domino's Pizza DOM.L (buy)

The Independent

SHELL PLACATES ANGRY INVESTORS BY FREEZING BOSSES’ SALARIES

Royal Dutch Shell RDSa.L has moved to quell investor unrest after shareholders rejected the company's remuneration report in May last year. A week after Shell revealed a 75 percent fall in profits in the final three months of 2009, chairman of the remuneration committee, Hans Wijers, announced that both chief executive, Peter Voser, and finance director, Simon Henry, would have their wages frozen until 2011. Wijers noted that the move, part of a wider containment package, would "demonstrate appropriate restraint in the current economic environment".

INVESTMENT COLUMN

Premier Foods PFD.L (buy)

Mondi (buy)

InterContinental Hotels IHG.L (sell)

The Guardian

VODAFONE CHIEF: MOBILE GROUPS NEED WAYS TO BYPASS GOOGLE

Vittorio Colao, chief executive of Vodafone VOD.L, has delivered his keynote speech at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, warning the mobile phone industry over the dominance of Google in the search and advertising markets. Colao said the dominance of search engines in the online advertising space "from a public policy perspective is something that should be looked at". Colao denied he was calling for regulatory intervention, but said that "network operators, content owners, application owners should be able to freely deal and we should try and have competition in all segments".

WORKING TITLE TAKES THE PLUNGE INTO TV PRODUCTION

Working Title Films, the UK production company, is set to launch a TV division. Working Title Television will be a joint venture with NBC Universal International and based in both London and Los Angeles. The London office will be headed by WTTV’s head of television, Juliette Howell. Love Bites, a romantic comedy, is set to be WTTV’s first U.S. commission.

Prepared for Reuters by Durrants

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