City tour fails to restore Matthew Clark's sparkle

MARKET REPORT
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The Independent Online
Few shares have suffered such a dramatic fall as Matthew Clark, the drinks group. In June they were riding at just above 800p; yesterday they closed at 306.5p with one market maker, Kleinwort Benson, offerings a spread of 293p to 308p.

In the past two weeks chief executive Peter Aikens and his team have been touring institutional shareholders in what appears to have been a vain bid to shore up the group's image following a shock profit warning at the yearly shareholders meeting.

Chairman Michael Cotterell revealed the group had been hit by the alcopop revolution and profits would suffer "materially"; in two days the shares were crushed an astonishing 314.5p.

Worryingly they have, albeit more gently, continued to fall. At 306.5p, off 24p, they are at their lowest for four years. It would seem, therefore, that the Aikens blitz has failed to impress institutions; the joke is Mr Aikens walks in and a few shares walk out.

Matthew Clark is a narrow market and big investors have, after the initial deluge, kept their selling to a minimum to prevent another rout.

Under Mr Aikens, the cider group has grown rapidly through acquisitions and rights issues. The company has a much higher institutional presence than many others of a similar size.

There is talk Matthew Clark, the country's second largest cider maker, may be forced into a rescue deal. Guinness, which produced slightly better- than-expected interim profits, is one name in the frame. Its shares fell 6p to 448.5p. HP Bulmer, the Woodpecker cider group, lost 19p to 486p.

The rest of the stock market had an uneven session with New York strength largely ignored. The FT-SE 100 index ended 2.5 points lower at 3,933.2.

Granada was an uncertain market, off 7p at 851.5p. The shares have fallen from 887.5p on Tuesday when it held meetings with analysts. One theory is the long mooted bid for Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television, where Granada nudges 27 per cent, is likely to materialise soon. Two Granada for every one Yorkshire, up 2.5p to 1,160p in brisk trading, is the story.

Chiroscience, the drugs group, rallied 21p to 391.5p. The shares were once above 500p. There is talk of a Glaxo Wellcome bid, or at least a trading pact which could involve Glaxo buying a stake in its smaller rival.

AEA Technology, the latest and probably last privatisation give-away, was the day's star turn. Shares of the former Atomic Energy Authority were floated at the top end of the range, 280p, and then surged to 328.5p, settling at 323.5p. As stockbroker Greig Middleton says: "AEA offers a superb opportunity to invest in a high tech consultancy service with almost no parallel in the investment world."

Railtrack, which also could argue it is a unique investment, enjoyed the satisfaction of hitting 300p against the 190p private investors paid in the spring.

Brunner Mond, one of the original parts of Imperial Chemical Industries, failed to join the new issue spree. Against a 175p placing it finished at 170.5p.

Great Universal Stores had another run, up a further 10.5p to 646p. It is still under the influence of ABN Amro Hoare Govett support but there is a nagging suspicion that, just perhaps, the long awaited reshaping could be underway. One idea is the successful Burberry operation is near to being floated. Another is a deal with Next following the arrival as chairman of Lord Wolfson of Sunningdale.

More buy advice for P&0 nudged the shares 8p higher to 603p and Royal Bank of Scotland continued to benefit from Panmure Gordon support, up 9.5p at 493.5p.

Dixons, nagged by worries over its exposure to warranties, fell 9p to 523.5p. Standard Life selling, dropping its stake to 4.82 per cent, did not help sentiment.

Kwik Save, the discounter, had another torrid session falling 29p to 312.5p and SR Gent, a clothing supplier to Marks & Spencer, lost 24.5p to 35.5p as it opened talks with its bankers.

Huntleigh Technology, a health group, tumbled 115p to 762.5p following a disappointing profit advance and a cautious trading statement. A profit warning from OmniMedia left the shares 15.5p lower at 18.5p and Trinity Holdings, the fire engines group, reversed 56p to 267.5p after uninspiring figures.

More O'Ferrall, the advertising group soon to be merely the More Group, slipped 18.5p to 650p.5 as UBS placed around one million shares at 651p.

TAKING STOCK

rCreighton's Naturally, a fragrance and soap group, gained to 8p to 62p. Company doctor John Carr has moved in with a 10.7 per cent interest acquired at 23p. Chairman Richard Collard has quit after a profit warning. The shares were 155p last year.

rRevelation Piccadilly, a luggage and gifts retailer, should increase profits from pounds 51,000 to pounds 245,000 this year with pounds 394,000 next, says independent analyst Roger Hardman. He rates the shares of what he calls a "small group with big ideas" as worthy of attention; they are 4.75p.

rBruntcliffe Aggregates held at 22.5p. Its long-running dispute with shareholders with approaching 30 per cent of the capital rumbles on. Interim profits are down to pounds 601,000 (pounds 860,000) but around pounds 2m (pounds 1.4m) is likely for the year.

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