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MIDAS TOUCHES ARGOS; Manning's Money; Soros buys pounds 8m stake.

THE man with the Midas touch is muscling in on the pounds 2 billion takeover battle for Argos.

George Soros spent more than pounds 8 million buying shares in the catalogue store chain yesterday.

The Hungarian super-financier snapped up 1,266,000 shares at the market price of pounds 6.36.

It boosted his stake in Argos, which is fighting a hostile takeover by Great Universal Stores, to 4,000,000 shares.

And it had some City experts whispering of a rival bid for Argos.

The company, keen to avoid the clutches of mail-order giant GUS, has already done a deal with Littlewoods as part of its defence. It will sell some of the pools giant's clothes through its 400 shops.

Some analysts believe Argos boss Stuart Rose would rather engineer a friendly merger with them than surrender to GUS.

To succeed, a deal with Littlewoods - or another white knight - would have to top the pounds 6.50-a-share bid by GUS.

As it stands Soros is set to make a mere pounds 177,000 profit on his latest investment. That's small change to him and not worth tying up pounds 8 million for. Soros, who came to Britain as a penniless student in 1949, has a glittering reputation.

He made pounds 1 billion profit from betting that the pound would be devalued before Black Wednesday in September 1992.

CO-OP BANKS pounds 55m

THE Co-op Bank boosted profits by pounds 10 million to a record pounds 55 million last year. But boss Mervyn Pedelty warns of a downturn in the economy.

Lloyds fears pension ads

LLOYDS TSB could have to find an extra pounds 100 million to cover its part in the pensions mis-selling scandal.

Britain's biggest bank has already set aside pounds 300 million to compensate customers it duped into buying personal pensions between 1988 and 1994.

But chairman Sir Brian Pitman yesterday said the scandal would be costlier than was first thought. The bank fears a massive advertising campaign by financial watchdog the FSA will prompt a flood of new compensation claims.

CARLTON TV is linking with National Geographic to make 300 hours of wildlife and history programmes over the next three years. The first shows are due to be screened early in 1999.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Manning, Clinton
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 16, 1998
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