Car industry moves lift Inchcape

Inchcape, the international trading group, was the best-performing blue chip as the stock market was squeezed higher in the run-up to the Easter holiday.

The shares rose 10.5p to 317p in relatively busy trading as unconnected developments turned on investor interest.

Michael Doherty, chairman of the Henlys vehicles group, started the Inchcape bandwagon rolling when he told shareholders first-quarter profits were "substantially ahead" of last year.

Then Las Vegas-based financier Kirk Kerkorian produced his astonishing $22.8bn takeover bid for the US Chrysler car giant.

Two such bullish developments in the car industry were enough to set Inchcape, with extensive car distribution interests, pushing ahead.

And the growing conviction that tomorrow the Japanese government will produce a package aimed at restraining the rampant yen and offer some comfort to the dollar added to the mood of confidence.

Inchape has been hit severely by the strength of the yen. Last year profits tumbled from £252.4m to £230.6m. Stockbroker Panmure Gordon expects only £185m this year.

With takeover hopes - Jardine Matheson has been cited as a likely predator - now in the background, Inchcape's shares have only recovery hopes for support. Although they have climbed off their 274p low, the shares have to live with the handicap they have topped 600p. Henlys gained 6p to 304p.

The rest of the stock market made headway with the FT-SE 100 index putting on 18.9 points to 3,209.8. Those hopes that Japan will take some of the pressure off the currency markets and further signs that higher interest rates are not necessary spurred the advance.

A big programme trade, started on Tuesday, was completed. It was thought to extend to £300m and was conducted by Smith New Court.

Some of the old takeover candidates were trotted out for another airing. United Biscuits rose 8p to 343p, a two-day gain of 12p. Hanson, another old reliable, was the suspected bidder.

Perpetual, the fund manager, jumped 80p to 1,490p and TSB, the banking group, put on 2.5p to 246p. SG Warburg added 11p to 745p and Kleinwort Benson 8p to 641p.

Medeva, up 8p at 229.5p, was again influenced by determined US buying, with Goldman Sachs said to be chasing shares. Fisons, 2.5p firmer at 178p, remains the favourite to strike.

One of the few shares actually experiencing real, as opposed to rumoured, bid action is AHH, the healthcare group. Bidder GEHE of Germany lifted its offer to 445p and, through Cazenove, swooped into the market, buying 13.7 per cent of its target. With acceptances, GEHE has 17.78 per cent. AAH gained 7p to 442p.

Staveley Industries, the measurement and minerals group that accounts for half the salt used in this country, rose 8p to 184p, encouraged by some determined buying. The shares gained 5p on Tuesday.

Meyer International, the timber group which is attracting discreet buying, gained another 7p to 337p. The shares have climbed 21p this week.

Associated British Foods gained 11p to 649p as some decided a weakness caused by poor Australian figures offered a buying opportunity.

Racal Electronics fell 5p to 245p as Lehman Brothers downgraded, and Standard Chartered improved 6.5p to 295.5p with a little help from Smith.

Newcomer Vision, an electronic vision group, made a scintillating debut. Placed at 97p, the shares surged to 156p (after 158p) in busy trading.

Eurotunnel clawed back 2p to 188p and the founders' warrants, which more than halved on Tuesday, rallied 88p to 363p.

Goldsmiths, the jeweller, rose 4p to 124p following a 104 per cent profit increase to £3.2m. ABN Amro Hoare Govett is expected to forecast £4m for this year.

Saltire, the old Cannon Street Investments, shaded 0.5pto 13p. Profits fell from £5.5m to £2.8 but UBS expects £8m in the current year.

Aminex, the Irish oil group developing in the former Soviet Union, duly produced its latest expansion move. It is to develop a second oil field in Komi, which should double its output in that region. The Irish group is known to have another big deal in the pipeline.

Waverley Mining gained 5p to 121p following Coal Investments' decision to increase its holding in Mining Scotland, the successful bidder for most of British Coal's Scottish mines.

CI, unchanged at 100p, is lifting its interest in MS to 34.1 per cent. It is buying shares from another MS backer, Leigh Industries, the waste group, at 143p each against the original 100p subscription level.

Waverley is a significant shareholder in MS and the CI build-up is seen as illustrating its ambition to achieve control of the Scottish operation.

Rhino, the struggling computer games retailer, put on 0.5p to 8.5p as a US group, Electronics Boutique, picked up the unwanted rights issue shares and made a tenderoffer at just over 8p a share to lift its interest to 29.9 per cent.

Arcadian International, the expanding country hotels group, attracted late attention, gaining 5p to 45p.

The FT-SE 100 share index rose 18.9 points to 3,209.8 and the FT-SE 250 index 8.8 to 3,493.1. Turnover was 637.3 million shares with 21,932 bargains. Government stocks gained up to £1/2.

Regent Corporation, a house builder, should return to the dividend list soon. Peter Tracey, an analyst with the stockbroker Greig Middleton, expects to see profits of £1.9m for the year just ended, with a 1p-a-share payment. For this year he is looking for £2.7m (1.5p dividend) and £3.6m (2p) in the following year. The shares rose 3p to 25p.

Shares of Blanchards, an interior designer, suspended at 68p six years ago, are being traded again. They have appeared on the 4.2 market following a reverse takeover by Dean & Bowes (Homes) and, as Dean Corporation, are priced at 10p. Behind the group, with property interests, is Stephen Dean, who used to run the failed Dean & Bowes pub-fitting group.

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