MARKET REPORT: Bid talk gives NMC Health shares a shot in the arm

Crisis-hit NMC Health started the week with a bang after it said it is considering takeover bids from private equity firms.

Shares in the FTSE 100-listed firm, which runs one of the biggest hospital chains in the United Arab Emirates, soared after bosses confirmed they had been approached by KKR and GK Investment with possible offers.

It comes after an attack from an aggressive short-seller, Muddy Waters, sent its stock plummeting in a brutal assault on its accounting practices in December.

Considering offers: FTSE 100-listed NMC Health runs one of the biggest hospital chains in the United Arab Emirates

But another fiasco immediately overshadowed the announcement, with the group revealing its founder had stepped back from the board while a review tried to confirm exactly how many shares he owned.

NMC said the move by Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty, who is worth an estimated £1.2billion, suggested the size of his stake had been incorrectly reported.

Travelex-owner Finablr, which was also founded by Shetty, made a similar announcement – saying the size of several investors’ holdings were also in doubt. Finablr’s shares rose 9.9 per cent, or 7.1p, to 78.6p. 

Since the criticisms were published, NMC’s shares have fallen 72 per cent, although they surged 32.3 per cent, or 226.2p, to 926.2p after the interest from private equity emerged yesterday.

Shares in Burford Capital, another of Muddy Waters’ targets, fell 2.8 per cent, or 18p, to 619.5p last night, after the short-seller launched another onslaught on the litigation funding firm.

Stock Watch – Clearstar 

Background screening specialist Clearstar has bagged a contract to provide checks for an unnamed North American firm’s virtual ID card programme. 

The deal will be worth at least £310,000 as it is rolled out this year.

It is Clearstar’s first contract with a facilities management company. 

AIM-listed Clearstar’s services will just be used at the client’s healthcare sites, though it manages 120,000 locations in total across several industries. Shares rose 10.7 per cent, or 5.25p, to 54.25p.

Burford released an update last week on its 2019 trading performance, which Muddy Waters yesterday branded ‘abysmal’.

Elsewhere, investors piled into Intu Properties after the shopping centre-owner confirmed it is tapping its largest shareholder Peel Group and a Hong Kong property giant Link Real Estate Investment Trust for cash.

Intu hasn’t said how much it is looking to raise by selling new shares – but media reports put the sum at £1billion. This would not be enough to pay down the Lakeside and Trafford Centre owner’s entire debt mountain, which reached £4.7billion last summer.

But it would shore up Intu’s books after a challenging few years when it has been hit by the collapse of clients – including Debenhams and House of Fraser – and a slew of rent renegotiations as retailers struggle to stay afloat amid rising costs and an exodus of customers to the world of more convenient online shopping.

Shares in Intu rocketed 29.3 per cent, or 3.92p, to 17.32p last night, as its focus on prioritising paying down debt and courting respected investors appeared to be exactly what the City was hoping for.

The FTSE 100 fell 0.27 per cent, or 19.82 points, to close at 7446.88, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 inched into the red, falling 0.03 per cent, or 5.97 points, to 21493.32, as fears about the spread of the deadly coronavirus continued to infect stock markets around the world.

A slew of London-listed companies started off the week with boardroom changes.

Troubled banknote and passport printer De La Rue rose 2.7 per cent, or 3.6p, to close at 137.6p, after it appointed an interim finance boss. 

Rob Harding, who De La Rue says has a ‘wealth of finance and turnaround experience’ has joined from Co-op Insurance.

Ryanair’s chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs, who was the architect of the Irish budget airline’s ‘Always Getting Better’ drive to improve customer service, said he will step down in April after six years at the group.

Ryanair’s shares fell 2 per cent, or 32 cents, to €15.37 – though this was more likely to be following a downturn across the Irish stock market after Sinn Fein declared victory in the Irish election.


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