Boys in dark glasses alight on Lucas as takeover target

MARKET REPORT
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The Independent Online
After their astonishing success with National Power the legendary boys in dark glasses have alighted on another potential takeover victim.

Lucas Industries had the distinction of being the latest candidate. In hectic trading the shares surged 20p to 224p, touching 232p. American, German and UK bids were rumoured to be on the horizon. There was also more mundane talk that it was about to sell its aerospace side.

The domestic bidder was said to be GEC, a theory no doubt inspired by the pending departure of Lucas chief executive George Simpson to - GEC.

Lucas was not the only company to excite the stock market as stories of corporate action swirled around.

Busy trading lifted the FT-SE index 15.1 points to 3,820.7 and sent the supporting FT-SE 250 index surging 29.5 to a peak of 4,493.6 with the German interest rate reduction helping sentiment.

Cable & Wireless was another share to shine. It jumped 24p (after 28p) to 546p on suggestions the huge merger with BT had, excluding regulatory requirements, been settled. BT put on 6.5p to 379p.

Christies International was again back in the corporate frame. The auctioneer climbed a further 7p to 226p (after 231p) as the market indulged in speculation about the intentions of near-30 per cent shareholder Joseph Lewis, an immensely wealthy Bahamas-based investor.

He has carefully put together his commanding shareholding leaving the market puzzled whether he intends to bid for control - or sell his stake to a potential predator.

Mr. Lewis could, if he so wished, produce the pounds 300m or so for a strike. Since failing to score in the l970's London leisure boom he is reputed to have become a billionaire through currency trading.

Utilities were back in the spotlight with London Electricity powering ahead 28p to 813p on talk of a bid from Thames Water or one of the US utilities. A price of 900p a share is the popular guess. National Power, which has attracted the attention of the Southern Co of the US, rose 10p to 588p with the partly-paid up 9p at 453p. PowerGen gained 5p to 604p with its partly9paid 4p firmer at 463p.

Micro Focus, the computer group, enjoyed another outstanding session as US bid hopes continued to circulate, gaining 303p to 1,168p. The shares were 680p at the start of last week.

Rolls-Royce was another to purr ahead, up 9p to 237p, a peak. SBC Warburg was positive and an analysts visit to its US operations is due next week. There is talk the US trip will be accompanied by news of substantial engine orders.

Reuters, the information group, advanced 23.5p to 777p on rumoured ABN Amro Hoare Govett support and Hanson rose 4.5p to 196p as sentiment continued to swing in favour of the proposed demerger. NatWest Securities was said to have picked up 10 million shares at 196p. Ladbroke added 5p to 196p as the takeover stories continued to raise a sweat. Once again turnover was significant with many hardened operators convinced a bid - from Bass, Hilton Hotels of the US or the latest runner, Scottish & Newcastle - will materialise soon. Pearson, the banking and media group which is another long-time bid favourite, jumped 20p to 739p.

The drug-happy pharmaceutical pitch produced another crop of plusses. Scotia jumped 46p to 709p on reputed Lehman Brothers buy advice and Celltech, where talk of a bid is growing stronger, added 22p to 580p. Cortecs International rose 23p to 357p.

Vision, the miniature camera chip maker, added 5p to 239p. It is expected to announce a share placing with today's figures and possibly a tie-up withFisher Price toys.

Hoare Govett's small company technology team, using turnover as the main measurement, has, it is said, produced share targets for a number of hi- tech groups. It decided shares of Acorn Computer had a value of 350p against a market price of 216p; MAID 270p (208p); Psion 1,250p (1,018p, up 78p) and Virtuality 350p (245p).

Symonds, dropping engineering from its title to underline its electronic operations, returned to market at 71p. The shares were suspended at 61p. For the pounds 11.5m acquisition of Zlin, a maker of printed circuit boards, the shares were valued at 50p.

Metal Bulletin, the publisher, drifted 30p lower to 915p as, instead of the rumoured bid, the company announced it was buying 49 per cent of Seanet for pounds 1.2m. It provides information on shipping and shipbroking.

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