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Aberdeen dismisses sale chatter; TalkTalk down again

Martin GilbertMon: Aberdeen Asset Management issued a strongly-worded denial that it is up for sale.

Speculation in the Financial Times sent shares in the company surging by 7% shortly after the opening bell in London. Five minutes into the session they had settled at around the 368p mark, a gain of 5%.

The FT, citing people familiar with the process, said the company had been prompted to sound out buyers following a slump in emerging markets which has seen its shares drop sharply.

The papers also suggested that chief executive Martin Gilbert (pictured). who founded the firm in 1983, was considering a succession plan.

Credit Suisse and Deutsche were mentioned as possible buyers, along with private equity firms KKR, Blackstone and Warburg Pincus.

However, Aberdeen said in a statement: “In his 32 years running Aberdeen, Martin Gilbert has never approached anyone, formally or informally, about buying the business.”

RBC analyst Peter Lenardos, told a trade website that the FT article lacked specifics and that a sale in the near term remains unlikely.

“All sources are anonymous, and nothing appears imminent. At the end of the week we were contacted to comment on the article and we declined as it is our belief that there is no sale process underway,” Lenardos said.

Aberdeen’s market capitalisation has fallen amid a slowdown in emerging markets. Shares closed at 352.26p last week, well below their 52-week peak of 509.64p.

Shares in TalkTalk and some telecoms sector peers were knocked back for the second time since last week’s cyber attack after hackers warned over the weekend that they were planning another attack, reports Sharecast.

In a message posted online by those claiming to have launched last week’s “significant and sustained” cyberattack on TalkTalk’s website, the purported hackers said they were looking at other potential victims.

“We [have] access to all credit card numbers. We have access to all bank accounts. Our next target is another English telecom,” the message read on Pastebin.com, a website commonly used by the hacking community.

Shares in TalkTalk were down 9.2% at 233.3p this morning, having fallen from 288p last week, while Sky and BT, which also provide similar services, also fell.

TalkTalk is facing a backlash from 4m customers with threats of thousands of legal claims on top of a widespread customer exodus.

Analysts have calculated that the cyberattack could cost the company more than £50m-£70m in lost revenue and other related costs, while others have put costs into the hundred of millions.

The FTSE-listed company’s website has remained offline since the attack. Scotland Yard’s digital experts are working with BAE Systems’ Applied Intelligence unit.

In an interview at the weekend, TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding said the company was under no “legal obligation” to encrypt sensitive customer data, such as bank account details.

“It wasn’t encrypted, nor are you legally required to encrypt it,” she said. “We have complied with all of our legal obligations in terms of storing of financial information.”

However, lawyers have argued that customers who claim TalkTalk has breached data protection laws could sue the firm, with potential payouts of about £1,000 per person.

The company could also be subject to a probe by the Information Commissioner’s Office as to whether it breached the Data Protection Act.

The FTSE 100 closed down 27pts at 6417.
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