Eurotherm odd man out as blue chips bound ahead

MARKET REPORT
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The Independent Online
Eurotherm, the electronic group, blew a fuse when its highly regarded chief executive, Claes Hultman, said he was quitting.

Since he arrived five years ago the group has made spectacular progress with profits surging from pounds 7.2m to pounds 34.1m and the shares moving from less than 100p to 644p earlier this year. Yesterday the Hultman shock left them 73p down at 515p.

Mr Hultman, a Swede, said: "I've enjoyed my time as chief executive. But my job there is complete and it is time for others to lead it in its next phase of growth."

The warm words were, however, unable to stifle a stock market suspicion the departure was not entirely harmonious. Mr Hultman would have liked to become chairman but he was denied the role. The company said it was not surprised by Mr. Hultman's departure.

Coinciding with the Hultman exit, SBC Warburg resigned as one of Eurotherm's stockbrokers. Quite clearly there has been a disagreement; over what is not clear. Henderson Crosthwaite remains as a company broker and a search is on for a Warburg replacement.

Mr Hultman has a much more high-profile job to concentrate on. Last year he became chairman of Wembley, the national stadium that had fallen on hard times, and its new lease of life, underlined by Euro 96, owes much to the determination of the Swede. But there is talk he has his sights set on another build-up situation.

Eurotherm was one of the most spectacular losers on a day when the market was in an exuberant mood. Technical factors, however, were far more important than such old-fashioned influences as investment buying. With US interest rates not being increased - and New York closed - circumstances were just right for a squeeze; hence the FT-SE 100 index soared 46.5 points to 3,760.5, its biggest advance since January.

Today sees publication of the US non-farm employment figures. In recent months these statistics have had a considerable impact on the market and there is trepidation they could again create turbulence.

Zeneca, the drugs group shot ahead on a cocktail of bid talk and its recent drugs progress; the shares gained 11p to 1,441p, a peak.

Glaxo Wellcome, up 22.5p to 889.5p, responded to hopes of favourable comments at an Aids conference and Reckitt & Colman added 10p to 698p on talk of a takeover strike from one of the leading US health groups.

Chelsea Village, the football club, jumped 23p to a 91p peak as Matthew Harding, the director who had seemed sidelined by chairman Ken Bates, lifted his take to 26 per cent. Messrs Harding and Bates are to get options to buy at between 60p and 80p.

Danka Business Systems remained in the doldrums, off 15p at 433p, but Betterware, the direct selling group which slumped to 42p a year ago, continued its steady but remorseless revival; the shares climbing 4.5p to 111p. After a tough run when profits crashed from pounds 14m to just over pounds 1m it has staged a strong recovery with profits in its last year coming out at pounds 9.3m.

Cadbury Schweppes edged forward 2.5p to 512p with Lehman Brothers saying buy and Warburg suggesting a sale into strength.

United Biscuits' meetings with analysts took a positive turn with the shares up 6p to 222p. Pilkington, the glass maker, also seemed to be belatedly getting its message across, gaining 5p to 188p.

Liberty International, once the TransAtlantic insurance group, fell 20p to 360p as the market was caught napping by a significant share sale. One story was that Minorco had decided to dump at least some of its indirect shareholding.

United News & Media eased 10p to 670p on rumours of profit downgradings and RTZ dropped 15p to 945p with Kleinwort Benson and UBS said to be negative.

BTG, the old British Technology Group, jumped 200p to 1,875p, reflecting the removal of a share overhang; OGC International, an oil and gas services group, slumped 87p to 135p on a profit warning.

AFA Systems, a financial software group, made an encouraging debut, up 16p from the 120p placing; Concurrent Technologies, introduced at 15p, ended at 17p.

Ennimex, an aggregates operation, soared 13p to 48p on the bid from French group Lafarge. Redland, which mounted a hostile bid earlier this year, is sitting on 41 per cent.

Clubhaus, the golf group, rose 1.75p to 7.5p following a pounds 7.4m placing and open offer to acquire two UK golf centres and a German golf project.

TAKING STOCK

rFerrum, an engineer, suffered a rush of investment blood. In busy trading the shares jumped 3.25p to 8p as speculators climbed on board, anticipating corporate action. The reported publication of the yearly accounts merely added to the excitement. The shares suffered the dubious distinction of being the market's worst performers last year, falling 94 per cent. The company sold loss makers but was left with too much debt for comfort. The buyers were banking on an injection which could transform the outlook.

rGibbon, the printing ink and graphic supplies group, edged ahead 2p to 174p following profits up 17 per cent to pounds 2.4m. Current year's figures should top pounds 2.6m. The company is looking for acquisitions, here and on the Continent.

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