Enterprise gushes higher in a rampant oil sector; MARKET REPORT

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The Independent Online
Enterprise Oil, in rampant form for much of the past 12 months, gushed 25p higher to a 679p peak as the stock market grew increasingly excited about its exploration programme and vague stories of an Italian takeover strike.

The shares, 358p a year ago, have enjoyed a remarkable run which has not been entirely due to the upward march of the oil sector.

The group is expected to comfortably meet its production target of 300,000 barrels a day by 1999. It has a range of exciting developments in Denmark, Norway, Italy and the UK as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Persian Gulf.

The oil market is agog with speculation of more takeover adventures and Enterprise, capitalised at around pounds 3.3bn is still seen as a likely target for one of the big US oil groups.

The Italian ENI group is the latest name in the frame. There was intriguing talk of certain Italian investors selling their kitchen sinks to raise the cash for an Enterprise investment. The market was inclined to dismiss the Italian connection, prepared to place more reliance on the skills of Robert Fleming Securities, long-time bulls, which repeated its 800p target price.

Other oils put on a flamboyant display. British Borneo Petroleum Syndicate flared a remarkable 118p to 1,319p following a meeting with analysts. Cairn Energy rose 18p to 517.5p and Ramco Energy 155p to 1,205p.

Fortune Oil gained 1.25p to 14.5p as it talked about its growing Chinese ventures and warned a rights issue was likely later this year. Monument Oil & Gas was another flaring higher, up 1.5p to 88.25p on its Turkemenistan venture.

Premier Farnell, the electrical components group, blew another fuse. losing a further 112,5p to 520p on its botched profits warning.

The insurance sector continued to attract speculative attention with Royal & Sun Alliance leading the field with a 13.5p gain to 475.5p.

EMI, the music group, had an off-key session. At one time down 54p the shares were hit by the failure of a US group, MusicLand. But as the market came round to the view EMI's possible exposure was modest the shares recovered to 1,251.5p, off 27.5p.

Staveley Industries, the electrical and mineral group, produced the day's profit warning. falling 23p to 163.5p.

Tate & Lyle, the sugar group, responded to the array of analyst downgradings by pointing to a "marginally" lower profits this year. The forecast allayed some of the more pessimistic fears, leaving the shares 10p up to 436p.

Bluebird, the toys group, put on 11.5p to 187.5p. The shares have had a torrid time, falling from 335p over the past 12 months.

The modest flurry stemmed from this week's toys show where the group scored a hit with its new style, moving Polly Pocket creation.

The company's profits have fallen in the past two years and a further decline to, perhaps, pounds 11.5m is likely this year. However it should be scoring from its new toys plus its link with Disney. And the market continues to wonder about the possibility of a US bid.

Grand Metropolitan, the food and drink group, edged forward 1p to 457p as Lehman Brothers said buy.

Said analysts John Wakely: "Much still needs to be done at Grandmet but it is back on track and growing again with a quality of earnings unrecognisable compared to its previous existence".

Waters pushed higher on the back of the innovative Yorkshire Water bonus scheme. Yorkshire gained 17.5p to 735p.

Go-Ahead, the bus group which has won, with a French partner, the Thameslink rail franchise, pulled ahead 35.5p to 511.5p.

Although many observers expect more bid action among insurance brokers Nikko, the Japanese house, believes shares of the two leaders, Sedgwick and Willis Corroon, are sells.

First Leisure Corporation put on a further 9.5p to 369p reflecting the arrival of Michael Grade and Chelsea Village jumped to a 155p peak as stories circulated that a buyer, acceptable to the board, had been found for the late Matthew Harding's 27 per cent shareholding.

Epic Multimedia crashed 26p to 20p as four of the five directors quit after higher-than-expected losses.

The day's newcomer did well.

Prelude, an investment trust specialising in hi-techs and bio-techs, offered at 100p ended at 101.5p with the warrants, tagged on as a bonus on a one-for-five ratio, touching 30.5p. Asset value is said to be 97.1p a share.

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