It's goodbye to old-timers Courtaulds and Pilkington; MARKET REPORT

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The Independent Online
It's goodbye to Courtaulds, the chemical group, and Pilkington of glass fame.The two proud names of British industry will almost certainly today be given their marching orders from the prestigious Footsie blue chip share index.

Their shares are bumping along near their 12-month lows; Courtaulds' stock market valuation has fallen to around pounds 1.6bn and Pilks is nearer pounds 1.5bn.

As Guy Fisher at Natwest Securities points out they have been overtaken by Hays, the business services group, and Mercury Asset Management, the fund manager split from SBC Warburg in the summer of last year. The two likely newcomers are each capitalised at about pounds 2.3bn.

Courtaulds and Pilks have looked vulnerable for some time. In the past few months Courtaulds has slumped from 487.5p to 384p, off 4.5p yesterday. Pilks' fall from grace has been rather more gentle, with the shares coming down from 222p early this year to 148p, off 2p.

Interim figures devastated Courtaulds. Profits fell pounds 4m to pounds 64m, prompting estimates for this year and next to be cut. The group's massive investment in wonder fibre, Tencel, is beginning to pay off but other parts of the business are struggling.

Pilks has been the subject of a two-way analysts' pull for much of the year. A slump in half-year profits and the group's discomfort as glass prices have continued to crack has given victory to the bears.

Hays gained 2p to a 542p peak and MAM, where take-over rumours linger, 27p to 1,238.5p, a few coppers from its high.

The rest of the market enjoyed a busy session with Footsie, up 24.1 points to 4,035.7, offering enough encouragement to revive hopes of more record- breaking performances. Government stocks rose by nearly pounds 1.

The market drew support from expectations today's Ken and Eddie meeting will leave interest rates unchanged and further progress in New York.

Housebuilders were helped higher by the Berkeley results and oils shrugged off the long awaited Iraqi oil-for-food deal with Lasmo, the best performing blue chip, up 6p to 222p.

RJB Mining was the day's big casualty, crashing 112.5p to 372.5p as house stockbroker Barclays de Zoete Wedd cut its profit forecasts for this year and next.

Guinness weakened 9p to 435p with LVMH share sale rumours again in the air and Grand Metropolitan lost 6p to 437.5p after stories resurfaced it was about to strike at BolsWessanen, the Dutch food and drink group. "Mischievous" and "purely speculative" was Grandmet's response. It added: "A big acquisition is totally off the agenda at present".

Other old bid stories were given further whirls. Abbey National rose 17.5p to 708.5p on the Prudential Corporation link-up story and BAT Industries rose 11.5p to 488p in busy trading on continuing speculation about a financial services deal.

Pearson, ahead of a meeting with analysts and hopes of a revamp being announced next month, improved 13.5p to 720p and Bass put on a further 11.5p to 815p on its proposed US hotel sales.

Glynwed International, the engineer, fell 9p to 336p; Warburg moved from buy to hold.

Imperial Tobacco was puffed 9p higher to 378.5p on talk of an unsatisfied buyer in the market for 2.5 million shares.

Cardinal Business, earmarked as Alan Baldwin's comeback vehicle after his Securiguard group was taken over by Rentokil Initial, rose 1p to 13p as Mr Baldwin, chairman and chief executive, and director Paul Baldwin quit. Veteran Nat Solomon takes over as non executive chairman. The Baldwins will each receive pounds 200,000 compensation, funded partly by new shares.

Newcomer Parkwood, the business services group, closed at 75.5p against a 65p placing.

Real Time Control, the computer group, jumped 50p to 240p following a 56 per cent profit advance but Alba, the television and video concern, fell 41p to 225p on its 45 per cent profits setback.

BBB Design rose 13p to 43p; Neville Buch of Blenheim Exhibitions fame is to become chairman and has picked up 5.7 per cent and agreed to move to 29.6 per cent.

Wiggins, the property group ahead of results, expected today, edged forward 0.25p to 7.25p. BSS, a heating and plumbing group, tumbled 55p to 542.5p following lower interim profits.

Great Western Resources, the US oil and gas explorer, flared 4p to 19.5p.