Footsie slips below the 5,000 mark

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The Independent Online
SHARES SLID to a new closing low for the year. Footsie, although ending comfortably above its worst levels of the day, lost 65.3 points to 4,990.3.

Much deeper dismay was evident among the second and third-liners, with both the mid and small cap indices taking a pounding as they found new depths for 1998. The mid cap crashed 93.7 to 4,553.1 and the small cap lost 23.3 to 2,037.7.

Trading was not particularly heavy but there was a resigned air of demoralisation around the stock market.

The overseas markets failed to offer any comfort, with New York in the dumps during London hours and Tokyo collapsing to a 12-year low as the urgently needed banking reforms seem to become even more elusive. Unrest in Malaysia added to the gloom.

The sagging stock market has quickly killed the attempt by Vivendi of France to sell a 4.7 per cent shareholding in Telewest Communications, the cable group which joined Footsie yesterday.

A bookbuilding exercise by Cazenove and CSFB was withdrawn because of lack of interest.

The operation, launched on Friday, was aimed at selling 100 million of the shares Vivendi acquired when Telewest took over General Cable. The French group would have been left with 35 million. The shares were to be placed with institutions.

Telewest shares dipped 2p to 157p; their peak, hit in July when the market was riding high, was 208p.

Rentokil, with a late flurry, was the best-performing blue chip, gaining 22p to 310p. Chairman Sir Clive Thompson plans an American roadshow next month with investment presentations in New York and Boston. Around 20 per cent of the environmental group's shares are held in the US.

The rest of the Footsie risers were mostly shares perceived to be oversold in the bear tumble or regarded as having defensive merits.

Colt Telecom celebrated its arrival in Footsie with a 41.5p fall to 595p; Securicor lost 20p to 445p.

EMI led the Footsie retreat, spinning 61p lower to 335p on a profits warning; two years ago the price nudged 740p.

Spirits weakened again as concern grew that Diageo will have a particularly sober tale to relate with its annual figures on Thursday. Profit estimates have been cut back in some quarters and the sprawling giant's shares fell 23p to 509p; Allied Domecq was caught in the undertow, losing 30p to 394p.

EMI's warning, coming after Bass and RMC, is making the market increasingly jittery about trading statements. The sugar group Tate & Lyle plans a round of investment presentations this week, and with world falls in commodity prices there are worries that it will attempt to reduce market expectations. The shares fell 16p to 314p.

But Granada, ahead of an analysts' meeting today, improved 19p to 720p.

British Airways' oneworld airline alliance was well received - for a time. The shares climbed 21.5p to 432.5p before all the worries about economic slowdown and so on engulfed the shares, leaving them 25p down to 386p on the day.

Financials had a difficult time, weighed down by talk of a global banking crisis. Barclays fell 70p to 1,063p and HSBC 43p to 1,037p.

Cairn Energy, which has forged a 50-50 alliance with Shell in Bangladesh and north-east India, firmed 9p (after 22p) to 136.5p, and Lonrho Africa held at 61.5p as the consortium related to George Soros nudged its stake higher.

A smattering of bids on the market's undercard helped provide a few bright spots. Kingfisher, off 24p at 487p, trumped Scottish Media's bid for VCI with a 120p offer. Scottish Media, with 18 per cent of the video group, has bid 80p a share. VCI rose 12p to 119.5p and Scottish Media lost 20p to 635p.

TDS Circuit nearly doubled to 18.25p as Viasytems emerged with a 20p- a-share bid. The electrical group Arlen has admitted an approach for part of its business and climbed 5.25p to 32p. There is talk that it is to be transformed into a cash shell. Alvis, the defence group, rose 13p to 218.5p on hopes that a US group will counter the tie-up with GKN.

Tottenham Hotspur hardened to 74.25p as another bidder, the Richard Littlejohn consortium, was shown the door. Celtic arrived on the main market scoring a 37.5p gain to 332.5p.

Shield Diagnostic fell 47.5p to 387.5p on the apparent closing of long held T-25 positions and Vanguard Medica lost 42.5p to 247.5p on disappointment that it had not yet found a partner to develop its migraine treatment.

Drummond, a textile group, responded to director share buying at 17p with a 5p gain to 17p; Waverley Mining, where Ofex-traded Corporate Resolve is bidding for 26 per cent of the capital at 15p a share, rose 1p to 10.5p. The shares were 132p three years ago.

SEAQ VOLUME: 749.8 million


GILTS INDEX: 118.7 +0.78

RONSON, the stricken luxury goods group famed for its cigarette lighters, returned to market, flickering at 1.25p against the 4.5p ruling when the shares were suspended for a rescue cash-raising exercise. As a result of the cash call chairman Victor Kiam, Nicholas Berry's Stancroft Trust and US group Albion Consortium Fund have more than 60 per cent of the capital, which could, if warrants are exercised, go to 64 per cent.

MEMORY CORPORATION, a once high-flying hi-tech group now valued at around pounds 11m, has attracted the attention of the US investment heavyweight Robertson Stephens. It has started covering the little group, noted as a repairer of faulty chips, with a buy recommendation. RS believes Memory will be profitable next year and has put a 50p target on the shares. The price rose 1.5p to 16.5p; it once topped 500p.