Flurry of M&A provides Xmas cheer for traders

Marion Dakers
BRITISH companies led a whirlwind of buyout deals yesterday, in a sign of emerging confidence in the M&A market ahead of the Christmas break.

London-listed household goods group Reckitt Benckiser bagged privately-held personal care company Paras Pharmaceuticals for around $726m (£460m) yesterday, while oil services firm Wellstream finally agreed to be taken over by General Electric for £800m, pending shareholder approval.

Also in the oil services sector, Wood Group shares rose 6.7 per cent after it shelled out $955m to buy out unlisted Scottish rival PSN in a deal which will make Scottish entrepreneur Tom Hunter around £30m.

UK chemicals maker Yule Catto said yesterday it plans to spend €443m (£376m) on latex producer PolymerLatex, which it hopes to finance with a £225 rights issue.

Elsewhere, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline spent £162m on Maxinutrition, a privately owned protein drinks firm.

News of the deals helped lift the markets, with the FTSE 100 gaining 0.8 per cent to close at 5860.75.

“There are a lot more pre-emptive approaches this year, for particular assets or unlisted companies, that are definitely a sign of confidence in the market,” said Neil Sutton, head of corporate finance at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

However, Allen & Overy head of corporate Andrew Ballheimer said: “Nobody will be getting carried away on the back of a few deals being announced simultaneously.”

He added: “M&A activity is likely to remain patchy, as it has been throughout the fourth quarter, as long as doubts about the euro and sovereign debt linger.”