BICC moves down smartly ahead of analysts' meetings

MARKET REPORT
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The Independent Online
As the Tory confrontation continued to sap stock market confidence, attention switched to BICC, the cables and construction group which to the surprise of many is said to be about to indulge in a series of meetings with stockbroker analysts.

Few expect good news and BICC shares fell 14p to 294p, close to their year's low.

At the moment the stock market is looking for BICC to achieve an advance from pounds 126m to around pounds 155m this year.

But there is a sneaking suspicion the signalled round of meetings will be used to pull market forecasts lower, perhaps to around pounds 140m.

There is no secret that BICC faces a multitude of problems. Its long- established cables business is suffering from the impact of higher raw material prices and the important Balfour Beatty construction operation is being squeezed in the building downturn.The shares touched 354p earlier this year.

The rest of the market was back under the whip of the Tory leadership contest. Although receding, the possibility the battle could prompt an interest rate increase continues to cast a dark shadow, pushing the FT- SE 100 index down 47.7 at one time; it closed 30.5 lower at 3,282.7, the first time it has finished below 3,300 for more than a month.

Trading was again relatively modest with technical influences distorting the overall picture.

Even so, since the Conservative in-fighting was drawn out into the open the index has suffered a 120.9-point fall which Datastream calculates as a pounds 20bn decline in market values.

Once again, New York helped ease yesterday's pain. The 11th-hour resolution of the trade despute with Japan produced an upsurge in trans-atlantic activity, offering the prospect the Dow Jones Average would close at a new high.

Analyst recommendations had a significant impact; Pearson crashed 21p to 592p on a UBS profits downgrade and sell recommendation and Commercial Union wilted 12p to 575p as Credit Lyonnais Laing sent out sell signals.

Amstrad added another 2.5p to 248.5p on the group's mobile telephone and direct computer sales prospects and Virtuality improved 13p to 197p after the Philips Electronics pounds 2.4m investment at 192.3p a share. The Dutch group will achieve a 4.69 per cent stake.

Newspaper shares firmed on the cover price increase for the Times. Mirror Group Newspapers rose 5p to 138p; The Telegraph 10p to 401p and United News & Media 8p to 526p.

Allied Domecq managed to survive negative comments from Lehman Brothers, shading to 552p, and United Biscuits responded to UBS sell advice with a 4p fall to 321p.

Kingfisher dropped 5p to 420p with Barclays de Zoete Wedd taking a negative stance and Abbey National confronted ABN Amro Hoare Govett sell talk with a 3p fall to 466p.

Unigate dipped 6.5p to 402.5p as the lingering and tantalising talk of a bid for its Dutch associate faded yet again and Dalgety, thought to be on the verge of selling its Golden Wonder pot noodles business, eased 5p to 440p, although BZW was supportive.

Laura Ashley, the retailing group, held at 82p. Despite the arrival of high-powered American executive Ann Iverson, Kleinwort Benson is far from impressed by trading prospects, cutting its profits forecast by pounds 4m to pounds 8m and from pounds 17m to pounds 12m. Still the house remains a holder of the stock.

GKN, on the verge of analyst meetings, held at 639p and Racal Electronics slipped 4p to 258p ahead of rumoured presentations.

Zeneca demonstrated the danger of ignoring a seasoned old takeover candidate. It spent most of the session in the doldrums but, as if to signal its attractions, moved ahead towards the close, no doubt influenced by New York's determination.

At one time down 18p, the shares closed with a 3p gain at 1,055p. Of the blue chips, Enterprise Oil, still thought to yearn for Lasmo, was the best performer, up 4p at 391p.

Scottish & Newcastle, figures on Monday, shrugged off worries about the performance of its Centre Parcs holiday camps group, gaining 2p to 549p.

Turnpyke, the springs group, held at 19p as Michael Moseley, the Monte Carlo-based former head of the Jeyes disinfectant group, sold most of his shares. Another big shareholder, a P Bowskill, also unloaded most of his shares.

The group, once thought to be in the sights of ex-Medeva executive Ian Gowrie Smith, is currently raising pounds 1.7m to help finance the takeover of Morris Springs.

Orbis, a security systems group, failed to hold its enthusiasm following a return from suspension, dipping 2p to 24p. And Tadpole Technology, the favourite of many small investors, seems to have lost its recent strength, dipping 4p to 49p.

TAKING STOCK

o Liberty has emerged as the outstanding retail performer. The shares have climbed from 228p in May to close at 338p, up 35p, yesterday. The upsurge acknowledges the thrusting new approach since the group's two-tier voting structure was ended and the family influence reduced. The arrival of former BhS chief Denis Cassidy as group chairman has added to the market's enthusiasm. In its last year the 26 branch Liberty chain lifted profits from pounds 3.2m to pounds 4.1m.

o Expect Tamaris, the little nursing homes group which announced a return to profits on Tuesday, to move soon to consolidate its shares. Trading was again heavy with some early backers continuing to retire. The price held at 2.25p.

DATA BANK

FT-SE 100 3,282.7 -30.5

FT-SE 250 3,589.7 -26.2

FT-SE 350 1,629.9 -14.4

SEAQ VOLUME 609.3m shares, 19.003 bargains

Gilts Index 91.58 -0.13

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