Legendary Hanson clings to a place in the top 100; MARKET REPORT

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The Independent Online
Hanson, a name that dominated the stock market for more than a quarter of a century, is on the verge of losing its cherished blue chip Footsie status. As the market closed shares of the once-feared predator were clinging to a 2p gain at 301.5p, probably just high enough to avoid the indignity of relegation.

Compass, the contract catering group split from Grand Metropolitan, is the main Hanson challenger. If it had held its recent 742.5p peak it would have leap-frogged the old star. But indications Accor, the French leisure giant intended to raise pounds 260m by selling half its 21.5 per cent stake, undermined sentiment at a crucial time.

The Hanson under threat is, of course, a pale shadow of its former self. Its creator, the legendary Lord Hanson, admitted the conglomerate concept had past its sell-by date when he launched a four-way demerger. Two of the constituents, Energy and Imperial Tobacco, have already barged into Footsie. The rump of the business, the Hanson building materials group, will, therefore, always be a blue chip struggler although a round of old-style acquisitions would help its index survival.

In the group's heyday take-overs were meat and drink to Lord Hanson. He put through a series of spectactular deals, culminating in an unsuccessful campaign against Imperial Chemical Industries which, among other things, led to the flotation of the Zeneca drugs group.

Argos, the catalogue stores chain, could, however, be a Footsie casualty following the latest meeting of the index's steering committee. It is likely to be replaced by British Land.

Equities failed to hold best levels but ended a rousing session with yet another record under their collective belts. Footsie rose 6.9 points (after 28.9) to 4,444.3 with the supporting FTSE 250 index edging ahead to 4,729.4. Turnover was a heady 1.1 billion-plus.

Glaxo Wellcome's rampant progress continued with a 36.5p advance to 1,154p. Besides the wave of US support the drugs giant had the satisfaction of obtaining Swedish approval for another migraine treatment, Naramig. Zeneca's in-line results left the shares 42p off at 1,860.5p. Glaxo's strength rekindled thoughts the drugs giant could be flexing its muscles for a big swoop and that Zeneca could be the target.

Scotia was the drug sector's big casualty. Failure to secure approval for Tarabetic, its diabetic drug prospect, sent the shares crashing 135p to 435p. In May they were 806p and early this year were riding comfortably above 700p.

Shield Diagnostic, which plans to host a City investment presentation later this month, stretched a further 38p higher to 655p.

Cookson, ahead of an investment dinner, gained 3p to 244p. Stockbroker Henderson Crosthwaite last night hosted the event at London's Savoy Hotel.

Vodafone, making presentations, was 4p down at 292p and Standard Chartered, the banking group, fell 19.5p to 873.5p after meetings in Scotland. Williams, buying Chubb Security, edged ahead 2.5p to 335.5p in response to institutional meetings.

Thistle Hotels gained 3p to 188.5p amid talk of an acquisition that could have a significant impact on the group's performance.

Imperial Chemical Industries enjoyed a 13.5p gain to 752p on the back of an upbeat statement from paint maker Kalon, 7p higher at 135p.

BOC, the chemicals group, slipped 16.5p to 1,016p as NatWest Securities described the shares as a "trading sell" and EMI, the showbiz group, put on 27.5p to 1,225p on Panmure Gordon support.

The oil majors gave ground but takeover hopes continued to spur some of the medium-sized players with British Borneo Petroleum Syndicate up a dashing 67.5p to a 1,425p. Barr & Wallace Arnold, the car dealer, advanced 10.5p to 249p after confirming speculation it might sell its leisure side, largely hotels and coaches.

Rank recently unloaded its coach division in a management buyout and if a merger of the two coach/holiday groups is planned it would form the most powerful force of its kind in the country.

Redrow, the builder, lost 5.5p to 169.5p after chairman Steven Morgan said he intended to sell 54 million shares, cutting his stake to 35 per cent.

Fibernet, a data networking specialist, rolled out a 39.5p gain to 184.5p after fixing a partnership with a leading Asian telecommunications group, Telstra. Under the deal Fibernet intends to use the Telstra network to supplement its main high-speed communications service.