Afren falls as takeover talk scotched

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Oil explorer Afren (LSE: AFR.L - news) was the worst performing mid-cap stock as it emerged that recent takeover talk may be little more than unfounded speculation.

Afren saw its stock surge 10pc on Wednesday as a bunch of traders who bet on potential takeovers bought the shares and spread rumours that a variety of bidders, including US giant Exxon Mobil and China's Sinopec, were preparing offers for the FTSE 250 (FTSE: ^FTMC - news) company.

The latest company to be named by these traders as a bidder for Afren was mining giant Glencore , up 3.9 to 392.6p.

However, that tale is incorrect, according to people familiar with the matter. "I have never even heard of Afren," claimed one senior Glencore insider. Afren shed 8.3 to 143.1p.

Overall, the FTSE 100 (FTSE: ^FTSE - news) continued to march higher, putting on 19.54 points to 6284.45, despite economic data showing Britain is poised to enter a triple-dip recession. The FTSE 250 added 69.66 points to 13136.10.

International Consolidated Airlines Group , the owner of British Airways and Iberia, had another strong day after JP Morgan (Other OTC: JPAAZ - news) upgraded the stock to "overweight". Glen Liddy, an analyst at JP Morgan, said: "We believe IAG shares will outperform once Iberia reaches agreement with unions (or implements unilateral cuts)". IAG perked up 4.6 to 223p.

easyJet also put on 46½ to 945p as Morgan Stanley (Xetra: 885836 - news) gave the stock another push. Analysts at the broker said: "We continue to believe easyJet represents the most attractive play in EU airlines." Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank (Xetra: 514000 - news) advised clients to "not take money off the table" as easyJet's upgrade cycle is "not over".

A UBS (Berlin: UBRA.BE - news) upgrade to "buy" boosted Russian gold and silver mining company Polymetal International (Other OTC: POYYF - news) , up 26p to £11.16. The broker believes a merger with rival Russian group Polyus Gold , up 3 to 221½p, would be positive for Polymetal shares. Speculation about a merger emerged last week after Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov agreed to sell his 37.8pc stake in Polyus Gold to diversify his investment portfolio.

However, many mining stocks ended the session in negative territory. For example, Eurasian Natural Resources Corporatio n slipped 8.1 to 331.1p.

Tui Travel (LSE: TT.L - news) rose to the top of the leaderboard after Citigroup (NYSE: C - news) raised its price target to 300p to reflect the group's strong operating performance. Tui (Xetra: TUAG00 - news) advanced 11.1 to 293.1p.

Enterprise Inns (LSE: ETI.L - news) was in demand, putting on 6.8 to 101.8p, as some brokers gave the stock a push ahead of next week's figures. Panmure Gordon rates the shares as a "buy".