Belfast Telegraph

Unilever shares up after announces review of business following Kraft Heinz bid

Investors piled into Unilever on Wednesday after the Marmite-owner announced a fresh push to boost shareholder value following Kraft Heinz's failed takeover attempt.

Shares in the Anglo Dutch firm soared 5%, or 204.5p to 3,791p, as it unveiled plans for a "comprehensive review" to "capture more quickly" the value within the firm after snubbing the 143 billion US dollar (£115 billion) proposal last week.

The FTSE 100 Index was up 27.42 points to 7,302.25, with Unilever sitting at the top of the biggest risers, as it clawed back some lost ground after taking a tumble on Monday in response to Kraft Heinz's decision to call off its pursuit.

Across Europe, Germany's Dax was up 0.3% and the Cac 40 in France rose 0.2%.

On the currency markets, the pound edged lower after a downward revision to annual growth stripped the UK of its title as the fastest growing economy in the G7 last year.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 0.7% in its second estimate of fourth quarter growth, which is up 0.1 percentage points from initial readings of 0.6%.

However, annual growth for 2016 has been revised down by 0.2% to 1.8%, marking a slight slowdown from 2.2% in 2015.

It puts the UK behind Germany which recorded a 1.9% rise in annual GDP, and means the UK is no longer the fastest growing economy among G7 members, which includes the US, Canada and Japan.

Sterling was down 0.2% against the greenback at 1.244 and 0.4% lower versus the euro at 1.179.

The price of oil was down 1.7%, or 95 cents, to 55.71 US dollars a barrel despite OPEC remaining optimistic that it can deliver on its production cut targets.

In UK stocks, Lloyds Bank Group was among the biggest risers after posting its highest annual profits for a decade.

Shares were up 2.9p to 69.7p after the taxpayer-backed lender said bottom line profits more than doubled to £4.24 billion last year from £1.64 billion in 2015, thanks largely to lower costs of compensation for payment protection insurance (PPI).

Its profit haul is the biggest since 2006 and comes as it puts the PPI saga and taxpayer bailout behind it, with the Government now holding a stake of less than 5% and set to fully return the lender to private hands by the summer.

But the group said its performance was ''inextricably linked to the health of the UK economy'', which faces an uncertain outlook amid Brexit negotiations, while the impact of the referendum was laid bare on bonus payouts.

Lloyds said on an underlying basis, profits fell 3% to £7.9 billion.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were Unilever up 204.5p to 3,791p, Capita up 24.5p to 558.5p, Lloyds Banking Group up 2.9p to 69.7p, Rolls-Royce up 19p to 751.5p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 Index were Anglo American down 41.5p to 1,309p, Intercontinental Hotels Group down 109p to 3,770p, BHP Billiton down 38p to 1,367.5p, Smufit Kappa down 46p to 2,170p.

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