MARKET REPORT : Footsie cheered by Scott vote amid escapist speculatio n

BSkyB and Trafalgar House concentrated stock market minds on a day of high excitement when the arms-for-Iraq scandal was unceremoniously consigned to the history books.

The FT-SE 100 index managed a modest recovery, despite another strength- sapping display by New York, as bear positions ahead of the Scott Report debate were cleared.

But Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB satellite television group and the Keswick's battered and bruised Trafalgar House conglomerate provided the type of escapism the market so joyfully embraces.

At one time BSkyB was up 26p in hectic trading as stories swirled that Japanese giant Sony was about to snap up a 17.8 per cent interest at 450p a share.

The stake would come from Chargeurs, the French group which, so the story went, was keen to sell its BSkyB interest inherited at the time of the Sky/BSB merger four years ago.

However the smell of burnt fingers was soon wafting around. Chargeurs was following Thorn EMI's example and splitting itself into two with the satellite stake remaining with the media side, to be called Pathe.

BSkyB quickly lost its exuberance as speculators, who have enjoyed a succession of triumphs with Rentokil's strike at BET the latest example, ran for cover. The shares collapsed to their overnight level, closing at 398.5p, up 5.5p.

But the so-called boys in dark glasses toasted their success over Trafalgar House. The shares, down to 21p in October, have been in rampant form this year as speculation has swirled of a bid - from the Keswicks or another party.

Another round of heavy trading eventually forced Kvaerner, the Norwegian group which failed to win AMEC, into showing its hand. Immediately the market scented an offer in the 50p to 55p range.

Trafalgar shares ended 8.5p higher at 47.5p and the preference, 42p in November, gained 9.5p to 71.5p.

Flushing out the Trafalgar bidder will keep the speculators on their toes. Ladbroke, little changed at 181p despite the Government's plans to relax the gambling rules, and Lasmo, 2p higher at 181p, are likely to attract their attention.

AMEC, the construction group, fell 5p to 95p on the Kvaerner move . The Norwegians still have 26 per cent of AMEC, a legacy from their hostilities.

To keep the action rolling Barclays, the banking group, mounted a 40 million share buy back at 765p through Cazenove and Barclays de Zoete Wedd. The shares, after falling to 754p on the figures ended at the buy- in price, 765p. A suspicion Reuters may be near to launching its share buy back lifted the price 15p to 707p.

Leisure shares were given a modest spin by the proposal to relax gaming laws.

Stakis, the casino and hotel group, gained 3p to 91p and Bass (betting shops and bingo clubs) reversed earlier falls to manage a 4p gain to 742p. London Clubs recovered most of Monday's fall, moving to 490p. Rank Organisation, with added support from an SBC Warburg recommendation, put on 7p to 491p.

Guinness, which has weakened this year, rallied 11p to 453p on the latest round of price increases and UBS removed the stock from its sell list.

Imperial Chemical Industries was another enjoying broking support, gaining 11p to 888p on rumours ABN Amro Hoare Govett had lifted its profit forecasts.

Acorn Computer fell 17p to 224p on its figures; Memory Corporation, another computer group, fell 32p to 368p ahead of results on Friday.

Severfield-Reeve, the structural steel group, gained 5p to 195p on rumours of an earnings enhancing acquisition.

Continental Foods, the snack food group, rose 2p to 83p as it picked up 60,000 of its shares at 80.25p and chairman David Cicurel purchased 15,000, lifting his stake to 16.3 per cent.

Freepages, the old Blagg builders merchant, returned to market at 15p against a 12p placing and 17p suspension. Seaq put turnover at 16.4 million shares.

Ascot, selling 251 managed pubs to a Mayfair Taverns for pounds 29.1m, edged ahead to 359p.

Shanks & McEwan, the waste disposal group, held at 99p as Hanson confirmed its 4.7 per cent share sale.

Powerhouse Resources, formerly Com-Tek Resources, fell 0.25p to 1p. It has lost its Nasdaq listing because of its failure to file information "on a timely basis". The company, involved in power plants in China, intends to re-apply for its Nasdaq presence in a few months.

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