Hanson steps up the teasing talk of a major strike

Once again, Hanson, the ubiquitous conglomerate, is intriguing the stock market.

Interim figures, said by stockbroker Panmure Gordon to be the best "for many years", are due on Tuesday; dealings start in a "when issued" form in the shares of its American spin-off, US Industries, two days later.

Hanson has been busy holding City investment meetings explaining the merits of the demerger. Many have come away with the impression the prime function of the exercise is to put Hanson in a much stronger position for the long-expected mega-takeover.

Rumours of a big Hanson deal have assumed folklore status in the market. The group has been linked with a wide range of often unlikely targets as the market has striven to identify its likely victim.

Argyll, the Safeway supermarket chain, United Biscuits and Yorkshire Electricity have featured on the supposed Hanson hitlist. So has Chrysler Corporation, the US car giant faced with a hostile bid.

Although the group has so far remained aloof from speculation, there is no doubt it is contemplating a major strike.

It has, as near as it is ever likely to, admitted as much by pointing out the US split will reduce its gearing, leaving it "to consider making significant acquisitions as opportunities arise".

So although USI, made up of some but not all of the group's American operations, could be financially hamstrung after repaying $1.35bn to Hanson, the old takeover warrior could be trigger-happy.

PG analysts Charles Pick and Tim Harris point to the advantages of a June strike. It would allow the target to be reflected in the year-end display and included for all or most of next year.

Hanson, they point out, acquired the American Quantum Chemical Corporation in June two years ago.

"What better time for a bid than after what will be spectacularly good interims in mid-May? These will remind the investment community of how Quantum was either a gamble that came good or a stunningly timed and executed acquisition which was 100 per cent vintage Hanson," they say.

PG looks for interim profits of £615m, up from £352m. In busy trading, Hanson rose 5p to 250p, the highest this year. The shares climbed 13p this week.

The rest of the market had a more subdued session, ignoring another New York power display. A three-day winning streak, which lifted the FT-SE 100 index 66.2 points, came to an abrupt end although the modest 7.6 decline to 3,310.3 looked more like a pause before the next charge.

Since the bull market started ten weeks ago, the index has surged more than 300 points; the Dow Jones Average has risen more than 400.

Water shares, which have missed much of the party, were buoyed higher by Smith New Court attention. The securities house is looking for earnings to grow by an average 11 per cent and dividends by 13 per cent. Thames added 6p to 486p and Severn Trent 14p to 543p.

Latest financial development - the banks planning to sell more 3i shares - left the price 9p lower at 346p. SG Warburg continued to retreat, off 22p at 772p, with Mercury Asset Management 32p lower at 824p.

Perpetual, the fund manage,r shaded 26p to 1,439p following its disappointing figures, but Smith New Court added 10p to 434p.

Imperial Chemical Industries responded to the threat of US litigation in connection with the Oklahoma bombing with a 7p slip to 763p.

Pearson fell 12p to 601p, with "satisfactory" trading overshadowed by a profit downgrading reportedly from ABN AMRO Hoare Govett. J Sainsbury firmed to 435p; trading in its ADRs starts next week.

Chubb Security held at 315p. Last year's figures are due next month and Williams de Broe is looking for a £10.4m advance to £87.5m. This year's estimate is £100m. "The current year's rating does not make sufficient allowance for the growth potential over the next two to three years", says analyst Mike Smith.

The Tadpole Technology suspension tormented some of the other high-flying technology shares. Magnum Power slumped 19p to 176p, and Unipalm 20p to 218p.

Premier Consolidated Oilfields held at 27.5p. Amerada Hess, the US group, has acquired 1.1 million shares, lifting its stake to 24.99 per cent. The buying stems from PCO's acquisition of Pict Petroleum, where Amerada was a big shareholder.

Two tiddlers that have attracted attention recently continued to find support. Farringford, with just a solitary hotel in the Isle of Wight to its name, rose 0.75p to 7.25p as talk of a reverse takeover persisted.

Midland & Scottish Resources rounded off a remarkable week with the 25p shares up 1.5p to 7.5p. a 5.5p gain since Tuesday. The 10p shares were up 0.5p to 6.5p. The group was almost sunk by its involvement in the Emerald North Sea oil field. The company said delivery of its Spirit of Columbus oil platform was near and talks were proceeding about its use with "a number of interested parties".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada