Albert Fisher perks up another downbeat session;

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The Independent Online
Albert Fisher, which has often flattered only to deceive, is attempting to win over the stock market.

Stephen Walls, the former Plessey and Argo Wiggins Appleton chief called in to revive the fortunes of the food group, is engaged in a round of City investment presentations. And the market seems to like his message.

The shares climbed 3.5p to 54p in busy trading. In April they were bumping along at a 38p low.

The group has for long been a dividend play, offering a yield of around 9 per cent even after its recent progress. Although Mr Walls has let it be known he had no intention of cutting the payout, the market has been reluctant to absorb his optimism.

But it is now likely that Albert Fisher, after a decidedly difficult time, is well on the recovery road. The days when it seemed to toss shares around like confetti as it indulged in a string of takeovers are clearly over.

In its heyday, Albert Fisher made profits of pounds 78.4m. It then crashed to pounds 21.5m but should top pounds 40m this year.

The group has moved away from commodity businesses to ready-prepared convenience foods. Its taste for salads should be paying dividends in the current heatwave.

The shares, however, still have a long way to go before returning to the 150p peak they hit just before the market was nearly overwhelmed by the crash of 1987.

The rest of the market suffered another downbeat session, with the FT- SE 100 index lowered 15.4 points to 3,405.3. Another poor New York display, statistics indicating a German interest rate cut was less likely, and the absence of any significant takeover activity combined to lower the temperature.

Wm Morrison, the supermarket chain, illustrated the sudden erosion of bid speculation. The shares, riding at 170p last week on talk of an Asda strike, relapsed a further 7p to 154p.

Disappointment over the lack of takeover action was compounded by a profit downgrading from NatWest Securities, which cut pounds 4m from this year's estimate to pounds 126m. Last year the group produced pounds 116.1m.

Zeneca, now regarded as a possible bidder for Fisons, retreated another 24.5p to 1,099.5p.

The regional electricity companies were also plagued by the lack of bid activity. Northern, still awaiting Trafalgar House's pleasure, fell 19p to 845p and Seeboard lost 12p to 436p.

United Biscuits continued its revival, up a further 9p to 298p. A number of investment houses should like the look of the group once it has sold its troublesome US operation and the feeling that a takeover predator could be tempted into action continues to create interest.

Pilkington, the glass group, fell 3p to 183p. Trading was heavy with rumours that the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority had sold some of its 6.6 per cent interest.

Royal Bank of Scotland was another actively traded share. One theory was that UBS had sold the rest of the 13 million shares it offered around last week. The shares fell 6p to 416.5p.

Glaxo Wellcome, up 2p at 755p, was at one time sporting a 7p gain, reflecting enthusiasm for an Aids drug it has developed with BioChem Pharma, a Canadian group in which it has a 17 per cent interest.

Thorn EMI continued to fret ahead of the strategy meeting which is expected to decide whether the highly profitable music division should be sold. With Walt Disney said to be anxious to improve its music catalogue, Thorn could command a handsome price.

However, there is a school of thought that it might decide to demerge the music side into a separately quoted company. If it did the newcomer's independence would quickly be threatened. The shares lost 13p to 1,347p.

Tullow Oil, involved in a consortium building a power station in Pakistan, jumped 8.5p to 67.5p. The newcomer JKX Oil & Gas held at 205p.

Break for the Border, the entertainment and restaurant group, was unchanged at 55p as it announced that Desnoes and Geddes, the Jamaican brewer controlled by Guinness, had sold its 4.9 per cent interest.

Bullers, the giftware to television group, held at 8.75p; the Fleming Mercantile Investment Trust has reduced its stake below 3 per cent. Last year the shares topped 27p.

Kunick, the amusement machine group, picked up another one million shares at 17.5p. It has now acquired 8.1 million shares this year. The price held at 17.75.

Stanford Rook, the drug group, arrived on the Alternative Investment Market at 126p. The shares were floated on the 4.2 market at 50p in April. Firecrest, a sales and marketing group, is due to join AIM today. Its last 4.2 price was 38p.


o.Another coal company is due to make its market debut. Next month Consolidated Coal, born out of the remnants of the old Amalgamated Financial, should arrive through Shaw & Co, the stockbroker. Shares are being sold at 50p. The company has three mines and specialises in high-margin anthracite smokeless fuel.The mining operations have been developed by Rhydian Davies who will have 28 per cent of the group.

o.Tinsley Robor, providing packaging for compact discs used in CD and CD-Rom players, jumped 6p to 98p after meeting institutional investors through its stockbroker, Panmure Gordon. Last month, the group announced profits of pounds 2.24m against pounds 450, 000. The shares were only 6p three years ago.