Investors recall BT's number as regulatory fears fade

Less than three weeks ago BT was the stock market number nobody dialled. The shares hit a 326.5p low as the regulatory climate grew more tense and the merger with Cable and Wireless collapsed.

The market is now looking at BT in an entirely different light. The failure to merge with Cable, a deal seen at the time as BT's salvation, is no longer creating anxiety and suddenly there are signs that even the regulatory cold front could be thawing.

The shares gained 9.5p, the best blue chip performance, to 355.5p with the market taking the view that on Monday Oftel, the industry regulator which has squeezed BT with seemingly unrelenting pressure, will offer a fairly kind price cap for the 1997/2001 period.

Some believe there could be pressure on Oftel to tread cautiously after the havoc created by the Ofgas regulator over British Gas.

Just to add to the more relaxed atmosphere, BT has met Oftel price targets and is increasing business and residential line charges. It was enough for stories to circulate that SBC Warburg and Merrill Lynch had lifted their target price for BT shares which earlier this year hit 414p.

The rest of the market was in grand old Duke of York mode. Thursday's 29 points FT-SE 100 index fall was followed by a morning run which took Footsie up 19.8. Then doubts set in. Renewed fears of higher US interest rates, the Israeli election result and continuing political unease on the home front combined to undermine the early strength and the index went into negative territory before closing with a 1.1 points gain at 3,747.8.

Lucas Industries, as its long awaited merger with Varity appeared, was the day's most heavily traded share, with Seaq putting volume at more than 30 million.

The shares rose 14p to 245p with the market divided about whether the tie up with the US car parts group will flush out a bidder. There is talk of a clutch of overseas groups, plus TI Group, eyeing the aerospace and car components business. The US link should make Lucas a firm candidate to rejoin Footsie.

Argyll, the Safeway superstores chain added 8p to 354.5p on the talk of a merger with Asda, off 0.75p at 118.25p.

MFI, the flat pack furniture chain, put on 5p to 184p as ABN Amro Hoare Govett made confident noises and Inchcape, up 10p to 306p, continued to feel the benefit of NatWest Securities support. With consumer spending increasing other retailers were firm with Marks & Spencer (up 4p to 462.5p) on Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull and Merrill recommendations.

Imperial Chemical Industries rose 4p to 853p; stories it planned to sell its 15.8 per cent stake in EVC, Europe's biggest pvc group, are wide of the mark.

Independent Energy started market life at 115p, against a 100p placing, but Stordata Solutions lost 1p to 15p on the abrupt departure of Stephen Sowery. He became chief executive of the computer databank and car alarms group in October when, in a reverse takeover, Stordata merged with the quoted Millgate operation. The shares touched 30p early this year; their performance was not helped by a profit warning in April.

Incepta, the advertising group which used to be called WMGO, slipped 1.5p to 18.5p despite a return to profits, pounds 1.4m against a pounds 2.3m loss. Select Appointments, a recruitment chain, gained 1.5p to 26.5p; it has acquired for pounds 680,000 a French staffing company with branches in Paris and Alsace. It now has 280 offices in 18 countries.

Real Time Control, the computer group, slumped 55p to 259p following the sudden resignation of its chief executive, Brian Emerson. Kelsey Industries, a roofing and insulation contractor, slumped 137p to 453p after announcing interim profits had fallen pounds 302,000 to pounds 1.3m.

Cantab Pharmaceuticals rose 13p to 683p following encouraging trials on its cervical cancer treatment. Said medical director John Roberts: "The signs aren't conclusive but are encouraging". It would, however, be years before any product could be put on the market. Cortecs International gained 3p to 372p on US approval for a peptic ulcer treatment. British Biotech continued to feel the impact of profit taking, falling 45p to 2,750p. Zeneca was also weak, down 21p at 1,371p.

Amey, the construction group, had another good run, gaining 20p to 313p, a peak. The group, expected to score from a British Rail maintenance contract, this week gained Schroders investment arm as a 9.5 per cent shareholder.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics rally to defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
John Cleese is promoting his new book
A-list actresses such as Deepika Padukone get paid a tenth of what their male counterparts make per film
The Black Friday Vines that will destroy your faith in humanity

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
Robbie Rogers: US former Leeds United footballer, 25, announced he was gay in February 2013, shortly after he left Elland Road. Rogers 'retired' after writing on his blog: 'I'm a soccer player, I'm Christian, and I'm gay.' Has since signed with Los Angeles Galaxy.
peopleUS footballer said he had hoped Michael Sam and Jason Collins coming out might have helped
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt

The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Austen Lloyd: Company Secretary

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: EAST ANGLIA - SENIOR SOLICITOR LEVEL ROLE** -...

Citifocus Ltd: German Speaking Client Specialist

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious asset management house seeks a...

Citifocus Ltd: Performance & Risk Oversight

£Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: This is a varied role focusing on the firm's mutua...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Director - SaaS (SME/Channel) - £140,000 OTE

£90000 - £140000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game