Seven days in the city

? Real Affinity, the listed marketing services group, was trading lower after it announced it had called of a deal last week.

“Following the recent placing, Real Affinity has terminated discussions with the first of a series of acquisition opportunities it is currently evaluating,” the company said.

It was later revealed that the target company was Mercier Gray, a privately owned sales promotion and directing marketing agency.

? Meanwhile, JP Morgan has put Johnston Press on neutral. The broker explains that the regional newspaper group has been very successful in consolidating the regional newspaper market, but there are limited “further acquisition opportunities and potential regulatory hurdles restrict its ability to drive this strategy further short term” – there is also potential for a decline in circulation for some its titles.

? Better news, though, for the Daily Mail and General Trust. The Daily Mail owner was tagged overweight because the broker believes there should be upside in margins for its two newspaper divisions.

? Good news as well for NTL, the UK cable operator listed on the US exchange Nasdaq. Last week, it announced the £1.27bn sale of its broadcast business to a Macquarie-led consortium and now it was evaluating how best to use the proceeds. The options include a special dividend, stock repurchases, debt repayment and general corporate purposes.

However, the source said the deal would not serve as an immediate trigger for a long-expected merger with Telewest.

He noted, nevertheless, that the market expects a tie-up between the two cable rivals in the short-term– probably late 2005. He said, though, no decision had been taken internally, yet.

“I hope the merger will happen, but I don’t think it happen in the next few months,” said the source.

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