BTR's bye-bye to buying slowly wins back supporters

MARKET REPORT
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The Independent Online
It looks as though BTR has won the argument. The new sell-not- buy strategy outlined by chief executive Ian Strachan when he presented the crucial half-year results has reversed the share slide and put much needed life into the 1995/96 warrants.

With the shares, on a dull day, up 2p to 282.5p, the warrants, down to 3p last month, put on 1.5p to 19p. The exercise price is 258p; they are back in the money.

For BTR the warrants are important. If fully exercised over the next few weeks they would produce an inflow of pounds 240m, a welcome addition to the coffers of the hard-pressed conglomerate which is making provisions of pounds 622m against disposals and slashing its yearly dividend.

For years the congloms swept all before them. First Hanson, now admitting defeat and breaking up, and then BTR found their glory days had gone.

The rest of the stock market again drifted away from the seemingly elusive 4,000 points target for the FT-SE 100 index. Footsie ended 10.2 points lower at 3, 964.1.

Ahead of the September futures expiry there was a rush of activity with Footsie climbing 19.8. Once the witching hour had ticked by the usual sell-off took place.

It was estimated that much of the day's 744.6 million share turnover was generated by the futures expiry.

The reduced influence of New York was again underlined as another strong Dow Jones Average performance was ignored.

The market got the big take-over bid it so desperately desired - not Zeneca, but Lloyds Abbey Life. The deal, which will value LAL, at about pounds 4.4bn did not, however, in the short term, make much of an impact. Lloyds TSB, already claiming 62.6 per cent of LAL, is planning to offer a mixture of cash and shares. LAL gained 28.5p to 620.5p; at one time the shares were up 40p. Lloyds TSB fell 12.5p to 378.5p. The proposed deal rubbed off onto Legal & General, up 18p to 774p.

Zeneca enjoyed another busy session with the shares slipping 15p to 1,575p.

Many investors remain convinced that bid action will soon develop with Roche, the Swiss group, still the favourite to strike.

If Roche does start knocking on Zeneca's door a counter-attack from Glaxo Wellcome would be a distinct possibility.

The Regent Pacific attack on Hambros, the merchant bank, nudged the shares 2p higher to 262.5p. The Far Eastern break-up call lifted Hambro Countrywide, the estate agent where the bank has a 52 per cent interest, 5.5p to 95; the shares were 30p in October. Hambro Insurance Services, also controlled by the bank, was unchanged at 91.5p.

Asda lost a further 1p to 103.5p as the parliamentary ambitions of chief executive Archie Norman were confirmed; Signet, formerly Ratners, fell 2.75p to 23p following the failure of its jewellery shops sale.

Mirror Group gained 9.5p to 222p as Panmure Gordon and Salomon Brothers circulated buy recommendations.

Heavy trading occurred in Rentokil with one deal of more than 7.5 million shares going through; the price dipped 9.5p to 432.5p.

BTG, following New York meetings, surged 197.5p to a 2,217.5p peak but many of the bio-babes wilted with Scotia off 24p to 613.5p and ML Laboratories 9p at 310p.

Alpha Airports edged forward 2.5p to 112p, with some chunky lines of stock going through. An asset sale or the takeup of Granada's 25 per cent interest are the stories flying around. A Canadian group is said to be keen to buy into the company.

Tom Cobleigh, the pubs chain, put on 4.5p to 233p ahead of the expected bid, probably from Yates Brothers Wine Lodges. An upbeat trading statement lifted Greenalls pubs group 14.5p to 579p.

The cider "twins" had a sour session. HP Bulmer lost 19p to 517.5p and Matthew Clark's remorseless decline continued with a 7.5p fall; to 350p. The other quoted cider maker, Merrydown, remains blissfully out of the firing line, thanks to its involvement in alcopops.

Atlas Converting, an engineer, jumped 105p to 757.5p following a 51 per cent profits gain and an upbeat trading statement. Pan Andean Resources rose 8p to 135.5p ahead of the expected Bolivian drilling report.

Edge Properties firmed 1p to 107.5p; it is buying Battery Retail Park, Birmingham, for pounds 17.15m and raising pounds 15.7m through a placing and open offer of 16.3 million shares at 100p.

TAKING STOCK

Mosaic Investments, the cash-rich vehicle of financier David Williams, is thought to be near to spreading its wings. Mr Williams has sold most of the group's rag-bag of interests and it now commands cash worth 38p a share. The price moved ahead 2.5p to 43.5p as some detected muscles were being flexed ahead of a deal.

Athelney, an AIM investment, held at 64.5p as a split between its sponsoring stockbroker, Dunbar Boyle & Kingsley, and its managing director, Robin Boyle, emerged. Mr Boyle, who created the trust as a vehicle for investing in small companies, has been ousted from DBK. Athelney is "reviewing" its contractual arrangements with the stockbroker which includes management of the trust's portfolio.

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