Thursday 23 March 1995
Eurotunnel is in danger of becoming submerged by fears that shareholders will soon have to stump up more cash.
The shares, down 12p on Tuesday, lost another 12p (after 17p) to 243p on persistent worries that another rights issue is imminent.
The rights rumours were particularly strong in Paris, home for many of Eurotunnel's shares. But a company spokesman declared: "There is absolutely no question of us seeking a capital increase. We are studying ways - and there is nothing new to that - of refinancing our debt in the coming years but that has nothing to do with a capital increase".
Eurotunnel's last cash call, an £850m cliff-hanger last summer, attracted much more support from the Continent than the UK. There were even allegations that Eurotunnel's shares had been driven down to influence the pricing, eventually fixed at 265p.
In the event UK shareholders subscribed for 67.7 per cent of their entitlement, with their French counterparts taking 96 per cent.
The new rights alarms stem from rumours that Eurotunnel's bankers are reluctant to pump more cash into the debt-laden enterprise, where revenue has fallen short of expectations.
Any banking shortfall, it is suggested, would leave the £10.5bn operation with little choice but to tap shareholders yet again.
Eurotunnel's Channel rival, P&O, was in much better form, steaming ahead 14p to 580p as a stock overhang was said to have been cleared.
The rest of the stock market failed to hold its best level but managed to close with a 4.7 points gain at 3,139.7. There were signs of financial- year window dressing influencing some shares and bed and breakfast deals remained a feature of the market.
Financials recovered some of their old gloss, with SG Warburg up 14p to 736p. The market was intrigued by the persistent attention Swiss Bank Corporation paid the shares. What many regard as the City's most aggressive investment house was a determined bidder, once again prompting speculation that Warburg could soon find itself back in takeover action.
It is widely believed that the acrimonious breakdown of talks with the US bank Morgan Stanley was merely the opening chapter in the Warburg bid saga. Others, particularly JP Morgan, are said to hover.
Kleinwort Benson was another drawing speculative support, up 20p at 635p.
Electricities emerged from recent lethargy as the market started to ponder the possible comments tomorrow from Professor Stephen Littlechild, the industry regulator, who devastated the sector when he warned that he intended to look again at his proposed price curbs.
Many believe he will postpone detailing his main proposals until the summer, with just broad outlines to be published tomorrow. East Midland led the field, up 19p at 630p. But Yorkshire, on which hopes of a bid (and cash) were riding high, remained dull, little changed at 647p.
Fisons was again busily traded, gaining 2p to 167p. Zeneca, which is likely to attract increasing takeover speculation now Wellcome has fallen to Glaxo, rose 8p to 894p. It is the prospect of the near-£9bn Wellcome windfall returning to the market which is encouraging much of the display of support that has prompted a 150 points-plus gain in the past nine trading days.
Granada, meeting analysts next week, edged forward 2p to 541p; Thorn EMI responded to US presentations with a 10p gain to 1,059p. Argyll, the Safeway supermarket chain which has been holding investment meetings, fell 4.5p to 288.5p.
BAT Industries, with Lehman Brothers saying buy, rose 7p to 438; Kenwood, the electrical appliance group, rose 8p to 269p with Warburg saying the shares were 30 per cent undervalued.
PhoneLink continued to benefit from its deal with BT. The shares gained 18p to 238p, compared with 176p ahead of the BT announcement. The agreement involves BT selling PhoneLink's Tel-Me service, which allows users to access information via their personal computers. Loss-making PhoneLink was floated at 155p in June, 1993. BT was also in demand, up 6p at 391p as Nomura and Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull made bullish noises.
Arjo Wiggins Appleton remained depressed, down 2p at 246p. British Steel, on price cut fears, fell a further 2.5p to 157p.
Barratt Developments, the builder, dropped 14p to 171p following figures, but the food group Bernard Matthews gained 11p to 114p. Bleinhem, the conference and exhibitions group, rose 23p to 197p with results in line with expectations.
Wm Morrison, figures today, edged ahead 3p to 147p. Pentex, the little oil exploration group also reporting today, gained 10p to 95p. Royal Doulton, figures next week, improved 13p to 284p.
Bolton, a little property group once famed for paper underwear, was the day's best performer, up 9.5p to 21p as a Hong Kong businessman, Oei Hong Leong, moved in with a stake of up to 29.99 per cent.
ViewCall, the latest vehicle of the 1960s whiz-kid John Bentley, started trading on the backwater 4.2 market. Placed at 65p, the shares closed at 68p with the warrants at 2p, giving an overall 5p premium. The company is developing an interactive on-line information and shopping service, which can be received on domestic television sets.
Black & Edgington, the marquees group, edged ahead 0.25p to a high of 3.75p. The market is growing increasingly convinced the company, little more than a shell, is near to clinching a big deal. In January, Ian Gowrie- Smith, founder of the Medeva drugs group, and Nigel Wray, the architect of many a company revamp, moved in. The shares were then 1p.
Southern Business, the photocopier distributor, at 64p is continuing to lag the offer from Berkeley Business Group, the Alan Baldwin vehicle. A counter-bid is thought to be a distinct possibility. There is said to be little institutional enthusiasm for the Berkeley offer and Mr Baldwin may find it necessary to improve the terms. Berkeley shares held at 6p.
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