Belated election jitters topple Footsie from new peak

MARKET REPORT
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The Independent Online
From breakfast to coffee time blue chips were riding at a new peak. Inspired by another New York spectacular Footsie touched 4,466.5 points, a resounding 33.3 gain.

Suddenly election nerves, an influence which had been conspicuous by its absence during the long campaign, eroded confidence.

By early afternoon the index was nursing an 18.9 fall and although - as Wall Street produced another storming run - prices rallied, Footsie could manage only a 2.8 gain, leaving the closing calculation 8.3 below the peak established just before John Major named polling day.

Financials, for so long in the forefront of the stock market's advance, succumbed to profit-taking and with many traditional areas of the nation's industry suffering from the strength of the pound, inspiration was sadly lacking.

BICC, once known as British Insulated Callender Cables, was the latest to warn of lower profits. It did not cite sterling's power but talked of tough trading in Europe. The shares plunged 17p to 230.5p.

British Steel, Wolseley, Eurotherm and Pilkington were among other industrial names under pressure.

But GKN bucked the trend. The engineer's pounds 352m take-over of Sinter Metals of Ohio was seen as earnings-enhancing and captured the market's imagination; the shares jumped 40p to 951p; SBC Warburg is looking for 1,050p.

Glaxo Wellcome, still enjoying Goldman Sachs support and ahead of a research presentation tomorrow, gained a further 25.5p to 1,213.5p. But Zeneca, with Merrill Lynch said to be talking of a 2,050p target, failed to live up to early promise, ending easier at 1,859.5p.

Cadbury Schweppes had to contend with disappointing US soft drink sales, melting 10p to 513.5p. Whitbread, kicking off the brewery season with final figures next week, was little changed at 768p. It should roll out pounds 315m, up from pounds 283.1m. There are hopes the coming round of results will lift brewery shares from their slumbers; they have underperformed the market.

Northern Ireland Electricity had a rare moment in the limelight with BZW saying the shares had "something to go for". The price flickered 3.5p higher to 400p. Utilities generally had a subdued session, reflecting the sudden polling day caution. But South West Water rose 9p to 687.5p on Panmure Gordon support.

Boosey & Hawkes, the music group, hit a high note, gaining 70p to 867.5p as Carl Fischer, an unquoted US group, said it planned to sell its 45.3 per cent interest. EMI, after the Henderson Crosthwaite investment dinner, gave up 20p at 1,224p.

Engineer Siebe was helped 14.5p higher to 912p by Dresdner Kleinwort Benson interest but Cairn Energy fell 38p to 556.5p as some investment houses displayed little enthusiasm for its Bangladesh link with Shell. BZW and Panmure Gordon were said to have put the shares on hold while Credit Lyonnais Laing advocated selling.

Another engineer, APV, rose 16p to 87p on the bid approach; Lucas Varity firmed 2p to 185.5p; it has bought back through ABN Amro Hoare Govett another 2 million shares at 187p.

Ex-Lands, the property group, ended 1p lower at 20.25p after admitting it is in talks which could lead to acquisitions and board appointments. It denied it was involved in negotiations which could produce a bid for the company. Any deal, which looks like a reverse takeover, would be at below the market price which touched 24.75p.

Coincidentally, Arion Properties, run by Jim Slater's son Christopher, said it was involved in reverse takeover talks. The shares jumped 5p to a 13p peak.

Wedderburn, the property group which has moved into oil trading, shaded 1.5p to 23p. More oil deals are thought to be near; a Nasdaq listing may also be in its sights.

Optometrics, the optical group, was shattered 9.5p to 14p after the Peter Levine-led consortium after "due diligence" backed out of a deal to take control.

Stentor, the Irish telephone operation, jumped 13p to 157.5p ahead of an expected bullish statement.

Petra Diamonds made a sparkling debut. Placed at the equivalent of 30p the shares hit 42.5p with the warrants, handed out as a bonus, closing at 17.5p. The group, seeking diamonds in southern African, is rumoured to have encountered unexpectedly strong results at one of its prospects.

Emerald Energy, reporting "strong gas kicks" at its Colombian drill slipped 0.25p to 6p; Dragon Oil held at 4p.

Taking Stock

r Panmure Gordon's yearly beer directory is placing the emphasis on pub retailing for its round of tips.

Century Inns, Regent Inns, Surrey Free Inns, Greene King (partly because of its Magic Pub chain) and Yates Brothers Wine Lodges make up the bulk of its naps.

Only Vaux, the Sunderland brewer where PG hints at management changes, is not included for its retail muscle.

r South Beach Cafe, suspended on Ofex at 5.5p, is planning to raise up to pounds 1.8m through a share sale at 6p and taking over, for an undisclosed amount, a US company, Pizza World International, with 17 outlets.

SBC, with branches in the US, Europe and UK, is planning a big drive for its US-style eateries and a move to AIM.

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