Inchcape heads for Footsie exit as shares slide further

Inchcape, the international trading group, suffered another torrid session. The shares crashed 17.5p to 238p (after 226.5p) as worries about the group's trading performance and the possibility of a dividend cut increased.

A series of profit downgradings have unhinged the share price. On Wednesday NatWest Securities cut its profit forecast by pounds 10m to pounds 140m. The shares have fallen 59p this week and from 444.5p a year ago. They were 622p in 1993. The slide means the shares will almost certainly be kicked out of the FT-SE 100 index when it is reviewed next month.

Inchcape has been hit by the strength of the yen and the slowdown in the Japanese car industry. Its interim profits reversed from pounds 125.5m to pounds 18.6m.

Earlier this month Sir Colin Marshall, chairman of British Airways, was appointed chairman, to take over from the retiring Sir David Plastow at the end of the year.

Inchcape was long regarded as an international trader in stock market classifications. But the Stock Exchange, to the company's dismay, decided it should be regarded as a motor trader although much of its income comes from other operations.

As Inchcape wilted, Vodafone, Wednesday's casualty, staged a modest recovery, up 6.5p to 222.5p. With most of the selling coming from the US, the cellular radio group's apparent strength probably stemmed from the absence of US activity with New York closed.

The New York silence was one of the influences behind a ragged performance which left the FT-SE 100 index down 29.9 points at 3,602.5. There were also signs of Budget nerves getting to the market. The latest short-circuit on the electricity pitch was the other big factor.

In late trading Ian Lang, Trade and Industry Secretary, produced a Littlechild- style shock when he announced that the pounds 1.95bn offer by PowerGen for Midlands Electricity and National Power's pounds 2.8m shot for Southern Electric would be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Following the clearance of Scottish Power's acquisition of Manweb, the market had expected the generators' bids to be waved through.

In the resultant turmoil, with backwardations as market- makers were wrong footed, NP slumped 16p to 478p and PG 21p to 540p. Their targets were hit harder; Midland fell 59p to 918p and Southern 62p to 913p. Other electricities weakened. Newcomer National Grid fell 4p to 224p.

Burmah Castrol, the oil group, was another under the whip. Panmure Gordon lowered its expectations for the group's chemical side which prompted a pounds 19m cut in next year's group estimate to pounds 154.6m. The shares lost 21p to 965p.

Legal & General continued to gather takeover support, up 11p to 706p while Northumbrian Water, on the long-awaited French bid, added 35p to 1,169p. Ferry Pickering, the packaging group, stretched 24p to 194p as Wace, with a 195p offer, emerged as the predator.

Forte put on 4.5p to 351p and Granada rose 4p to 653p. Cable and Wireless lost 13p to 453p as speculators snatched profits. The group is still seen to be a takeover candidate. Babcock International's problems in Germany left the shares 13p off at 148p.

Newcomer Tom Cobleigh, a pubs operator, closed at 191p from a 150p flotation level. Dorling Kindersley, the publisher, rose 24p to 528p as the Microsoft overhang was removed when the shares were placed by Cazenove and Goldman Sachs at 597p.

Lloyds Chemists shaded 2p to 248p as 7.1 million shares were placed by Merrill Lynch at 244p. The shares came from an institution.

British Sky Broadcasting rose 5p to 393p following investment meetings in Edinburgh; Scottish & Newcastle was lowered 6p to 622p as Kleinwort Benson said sell.

Amec, the builder, jumped 21p to 99p with SBC Warburg mounting a dawn raid at 100p for 20 million shares. The buyer later emerged as Norway's Kvaerner group.

Polar, an electronics maker, gained 52p to 430p following a bid from rivals Abacus, little changed at 279p.

London Clubs, the casino group, was firm at 409p. There is talk today's interim profits could be as high as pounds 30m, the figure some analysts expect for the year.

Northamber, the computer group, rose 12p to 254p ahead of next week's figures but Waverley Mining fell 4p to 98p on the plan to take full control of the Monktonhall coal mine in Scotland.

TAKING STOCK

pBTG, which was originally created 15 years ago by the merger of two Government research organisations, rose 28p to 618p. The shares were floated at 225p in the summer. The group, which nurses a wide range of intriguing developments, will remain as a 5.5 per cent shareholder in Peptide Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutic group, which is coming to market through a placing at 220p. The issue is expected to attract a strong demand. Dealings are due to start next week.

pPlatignum, the household goods and stationery group rumoured to be near a major acquisition, has attracted the support of the Williams Holdings Pension Fund. It has picked up more than

3 million shares lifting its stake to 4.2 per cent. The shares held at 8.5p.

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