AXA gets friendly with Friends

Friends Provident was a strong performer this week as dealers reckon the life assurer could be a takeover target.

Hopes of a bid were sparked by AXA buying 21.5 million shares in the company, taking its holding to 15.1%. Dealers have speculated that the French insurer is on the hunt for acquisitions since it delivered strong interim results earlier this month.

Others continued to suggest that Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA) could be a possible target for AXA. As Insurance Times went to press, Friends Provident was trading at around 180p and R&SA was worth 95p a share.

Legal & General was also in demand as Killik & Co published a bullish note on the stock, saying the insurer has one of the stronger balance sheets in the sector.

"Currently trading at 109p, with a prospective dividend yield of 4.9pc, the shares look good value," said analyst Patrick Gordon.

Stockbroker Bridgewell repeated its 'buy' rating on Capita which revealed it had entered into detailed discussions with Zurich regarding a potential business relationship.

Capita is trading at around 370p.

' Yvette Essen is stock market reporter and insurance correspondent for The Daily Telegraph