Blue-chip stocks rise while Merlin leads FTSE 250

Shares in Madame Tussauds owner Merlin soared on Friday as it accepted a £5.9 billion takeover offer, while London’s top stocks finished the week on a cautiously optimistic note.

Merlin Entertainments said it had agreed to a bid from Lego’s owners, a private equity giant and a Canadian pension fund, sending the firm’s shares up by 54.1p, or 13.7%, to 449.1p and making it the top riser on the FTSE 250.

Meanwhile the FTSE 100 gained 23.3 points, or 0.31%, to close at 7,425.63.

The blue-chip index was in line with global markets as investors anticipated a meeting between the leaders of China and the US over the weekend.

Fiona Cincotta, senior market analyst at City Index, said: “Traders are looking optimistically towards Trump and Xi Jinping’s bilateral meeting at the G20. The meeting will take place on Saturday morning local time, traders will react as the markets open on Sunday evening.

“The fact that equity markets are trading higher across the board gives a fairly clear indication that investors are optimistic of some progress. Historically the odds are onside for a truce between the two powers, if the last G20 is anything to go by.”

The mood was similarly lifted on European markets, with the German Dax up 1.04% and French Cac 0.91% higher.

The pound was also higher on Friday, climbing 0.18% on the euro to 1.116 and 0.26% versus the dollar to 1.270.

Oil prices however were in the red, as the positive sentiment reduced fears over supply issues.

A barrel of Brent crude oil was trading at 65.58 US dollars, down 1.12%.

In company news, Philip Day moved a step closer to taking womenswear retailer Bonmarche off the stock market after major shareholder Cavendish sold out.

Fund managers at Cavendish told PA they thought Mr Day’s offer undervalued the business, but that they felt forced to sell out by management’s handling of the situation.

Shares in Bonmarche were up 0.35p to 11.75p.

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct failed in its coup of the Goals Soccer Centres board at a heated AGM. All resolutions were passed, re-electing the directors of Goals.

The company’s shares remain suspended following the discovery of an accounting error.

Shares in UK infrastructure firm Costain dived after it warned that revenues would be hit by a number of project delays.

Revenues in 2019 will fall short of expectations because of “a number of delays to the timing of contract start dates and new awards”, it told investors on Friday.

The stock was down 132.8p, or 43.26%, to 174.2p.

French Connection said it would extend talks with a “number of initial parties” over a potential sale, months after it first announced it could be sold.

Shares in the company closed 0.2p higher at 38.6p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were International Consolidated Airlines Group, up 22.6p to 476.9p, easyJet up 43.2p to 953.2p, Berkeley Group up 150p to 3,731p and Burberry Group up 73p to 1,862p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Imperial Brands down 43p to 1,846.8p, Bunzl down 38p to 2,077p, Intertek Group down 80p to 5,502p and BT Group down 2.28p to 196.46p.