Investors turn sour on the prospects for Tate & Lyle

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Shares of Tate & Lyle fell to their lowest since December as the stock market fretted about its next set of figures. The sugar group's year ends this month and poor results are widely expected. It was, however, a decision to call a series of investment meetings that started some pessimistic souls worrying about the extent of the downturn.

Talk that ABN Amro Hoare Govett had trimmed its forecast - to pounds 275m - added to the discomfort and the shares fell 11.5p to 449.5p. Most estimates are in the pounds 280m range; last year Tate produced pounds 311m.

The sour taste pervading the group stems largely from its US operations and the world shortage of maize from which it produces soft drink sweeteners. The cost of maize has soared and Tate has been forced into the spot market to replenish stocks. With soft drink makers reluctant to accept higher prices, Tate's margins are being squeezed. An explosion at a Nebraska sugar beet factory in July is expected to blow a pounds 10m hole in the figures.

There are hopes this year's crop will be much better and the pressure will be reduced, perhaps removed altogether.

Such expectations help explain forecasts of a sharp recovery next year with, for example, NatWest Securities looking for pounds 331.5m.

The rest of the market was in more buoyant form, ignoring the lack of action in New York. Although trading was extremely thin the FT-SE 100 index managed to rally 16.8 points to 3,884.4.

Hopes the Chancellor will push through another interest rate cut this week and the return of nagging suspicions a mega-takeover bid is due to break helped sentiment.

Oils were the star performers. Prices flared on the Iraqi tension with a five-year crude high reacheed on the oil futures market. The United Nation's decision to delay the food for oil Iraqi deal was an important influence.

The excitement flowed through to oil shares with British Petroleum up 12p to 632.5p and Shell 11.5p to 942.5p. Enterprise Oil rose 12p to 521.5p; even Lasmo, the subject of buy and sell advice ended 1.5p firmer at 195.5p.

Cable & Wireless, on hopes of developments at its Hong Kong Telecom associate, improved 7.5p to 428.5p and Imperial Chemical Industries enjoyed Kleinwort Benson support, up 18p at 826.5p. Cadbury Schweppes, interim figures tomorrow, edged ahead 2.5p to 515.5p as Lehman Brothers made positive noises. It expects profits to come out at pounds 218m, up 6 per cent, and is looking for a year's out-turn of pounds 563m. Analyst Richard Newboult is shooting for a 12-month target of 600p.

Allied Domecq continued to reflect its planned departure from the beerage and with Goldman Sachs making positive noises the shares gained 7p to 466.5p. Bass was ruffled by a large line of stock, said to be 2.5 million, on offer, falling 10.5p to 821.5p.

Rolls-Royce, on Henderson Crosthwaite buy advice and the expectation more Farnborough orders will come through, flew 1.5p higher to 223.5p.

Lloyds Abbey Life, the insurer, was a shade firmer at 599.5p on suggestions Lloyds TSB intended to pump its insurance interests into the group, lifting its stake to around 75 per cent.

Tom Cobleigh, the pubs chain, fell 9.5p to 189p with the impression strengthening the controlling venture capitalist had been unable to find a single buyer and was proposing to place its shares with institutions.

Blenheim, the exhibition group, crashed 61.5p to 335p as arbitrage selling was made more painful by marking down. A little more than 100,000 shares changed hands.

Home County Newspapers added 29p to 224p on suggestions a consortium including newspaper man Andrew Knight was likely to assume management control.

Some of the bio-babes continued to feel the benefit of Yamaichi support.

Stanford Rook gained 22.5p to 485p and Therapeutic Antibodies 13.5p to 497.5p. Cortecs International firmed to 308.5p on encouraging trials of an oral vaccine.

Millwall, the football club, held at 3.25p as director Jose Berardo continued to sell, getting ride of a further 750,000 shares at 3.125p.

His interest has been nearly halved in recent months to 6.13 per cent.

Quality Software, the computer group which came to market at 380p three years ago, jumped 37.5p to 255p and Craig & Rose, the loss-making paint maker, highlighted the volatility of narrowly traded shares, jumping 72.5p to 222.5p.

On Friday they fell 72.5p.


o There are suggestions of corporate activity at Johnson Fry, the financial group once famed for its vast array of Business Expansion Scheme ventures.

The shares gained 10.5p to 159p, a 12-month high. Interim figures are due soon, possibly on Thursday, and there is a feeling they will be accompanied by news of an intriguing recruit.

One name mentioned is Lennie Licht, whose family has more than 3 per cent of Johnson, once LIT Holdings. He is a deputy chairman of Jupiter Tyndall, the fund management group owned by Commerzbank.

o Memory Corporation, which repairs defective chips, fell to a low of 37.5p, off 6p. It has been hit by the dramatic slump in chip prices. A year ago the shares traded at 553.5p.