Brighter news after the electrical storms

MARKET REPORT
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The Independent Online
The FT-SE 100 index jumped 34.2 points to 3,021.1 and the FT-SE 250 index gained 9.3 to 3,320.4. Turnover was 722.5 million shares from 25,451 bargains. Government stocks closed up to half a point higher.

After a week of electrical storms leading shares enjoyed their best day of the year. For once currency volatility was ignored and it seemed even the shock of Professor Stephen Littlechild's extraordinary change of mind over electricity pricing had finally been absorbed.

With encouraging US employment figures driving New York to yet another peak the FT-SE index of 100 blue chips jumped 34.2 points to 3,021.1.

Again electricities generated much of the action. Trafalgar House's new - and lower - bid for Northern Electric left the shares 10p lower at 808p. After the stock market closed Trafalgar, up 1p at 60p, said it had received acceptances representing 82.4 per cent of Northern and its initial offer had lapsed.

Among electricities higher were Norweb, up 26p to 674p and South Wales 17p to 673p.

Even the generators struggled from the doldrums offering private investors, if not institutions, a glimpse of profits. Against the share shop offer of 170p National Power climbed 7.5p to 173.5p; PowerGen rose 9p to 185.5p compared with the 185p sale price.

The fully-paid shares were less impressive with NP gaining 3.5p to 436.5p and PG 3.5p to 467p. Since the controversial £4bn share sale got under way in January NP has fallen from 480p and PG from 529p.

But electricities were not the only winners. Gains featured throughout the lists. Some of the strength stemmed from the futures pits as short positions were covered. Trading in the cash market was occasionally brisk with turnover reaching 722.5m shares.

Over what has been a turbulent week the FT-SE 100 index ended little changed. But the Littlechild-inspired damage is more evident in the supporting FT-SE 250 index, which features most of the electricity stocks. It week's decline is 71 points.

Rolls-Royce, the aero engine group, was the day's best performing blue chip, helped by results and the upbeat trading comments. Even the prospect of a rights issue or share placing to raise cash for the $525m acquisition of Allison, the US engine maker, is no longer hurting sentiment. The shares climbed 9.5p to 159p.

GKN rose another 15p to 594p following figures and its Westland helicopter success.

Inchcape fell 6p to 313p as take over speculation subsided but Saatchi & Saatchi staged a modest rally, up 2.5p to 86p.

Commercial Union improved 4p to 524p as Philip Haggard at Nikko forecast a £93m profit advance to £495 and said buy. Builder Edmond Holdings gained 1p to 19p as unquoted Roxylight Properties bid 25.5p a share and North Sea Assets, an oil services group, put on 4p to 30p after admitting it was in bid talks. Distributor Wills was suspended at 14.5p as take-over talks took place. MR Data Management rose 11p to 109p on talk of a bid from Hays.

Unit Group, a pallet maker which has moved into property, jumped 9p to 40p as it was elevated to a full listing. Profit warnings took their inevitable toll. Chieftain, fireproofing and insulation supplier, tumbled 17p to 33p after saying year's profits will be down. S Lyles, a textile group, slumped 21p to 62p. It disclosed an interim loss and dropped the dividend.

Lloyds Chemists, down 75p since disappointing profits and a reorganisation, managed to claw back just 4p, reaching 214p.

Etam, the fashion retailer, jumped 18.5p to 202.5p on vague take-over talk. Former bidder Oceana Consolidated has 37.25 per cent and is represented on the board. A hostile bid is, therefore, unlikely.

Storehouse remained ruffled by the departure of a subsidiary director, down 2p at 212p.

Kingfisher, paying up to £3m compensation to former directors, was little changed at 437p. Figures are due on Tuesday with NatWest Securities looking for £286m, down from £310.6m.

WSP, engineering consultants, edged ahead 1p to 44p after confirming contracts worth £20m. Shield Group held at 7p; a Cheshire property man has taken a 5 per cent stake.

Berkeley Business fell 1p to 5.5p. The shares have been under pressure since it emerged as the surprise bidder for Southern Business, a photo copier distribution company more than three times its size. The cash and share offer values Southern at around 71p. It closed 1p lower at 65p.

The fall-out from Bensons Crisps' rescue rights issue continues to intrigue. Latest to emerge as a substantial shareholder is FP Fund Managers, part of Friends Provident. FP joins management consultants Knox D'Arcy and Nicholas Berry's Stancroft Trust as influential shareholders. But Greville Howard's Arlen electrical group has dropped off the register. The shares are 16p.

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