MARKET REPORT

Hopes of acquisition give Granada a lift
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The Independent Online
Shares of Granada, the sprawling leisure group, shrugged off the influence of a downbeat stock market, moving ahead 6p to 542p, not far from their l2-month high.

Today's analyst meeting - and the prospect of detailed briefings over the next few weeks - provided the spur.

There is a suspicion the acquisitive group has more deals under consideration. It has in the past year sharply expanded its television activities with the takeover of LWT, and lifted its catering operations by buying Sutcliffe Catering and The Catering Guild. Stockbroker Henderson Crosthwaite describes the shares as "a quality investment". It looks for profits of £330m this year and £372m next.

Elsewhere, the revival that has driven the FT-SE index more than 160 points higher in often busy trading came to an abrupt halt. Early gains were not held and by the close Footsie nursd a 3.6 fall at 3,149.8.

But optimists were not dismayed, drawing comfort from the impact of dividend payments that stripped more than 12 points from the index calculation before a share was traded. Even so there were signs the market had lost some of its enthusiasm. Despite a steady stream of tax-efficient bed and breakfast deals, turnover was below expectations, suggesting many investors remain wary and do not trust the recent strength.

The prospect of another big rights issue, probably from Scottish & Newcastle, was another unsettling influence. The brewing group would appear to be near clinching a deal to buy Courage and could be forced to tap shareholders for about £500m. It last sought cash in 1993 to finance the takeover of the Chef & Brewer pubs chain. Scottish fell 3p to 511p.

Two Footsie constituents, Inchcape and Pearson, also took their toll following results. Inchcape fell 22p to 278p and Pearson 15p to 569p. Leaders to buck the trend included Commercial Union, up 9p to 557p, and Lloyds Bank, helped 5p higher to 607.5p by the defeat of Cheltenham & Gloucester rebels.

Vickers, taking 20 analysts to visit its Swedish operations next week, edged forward 2p to 181p. McLeod Russel, the chemical group thought to have held investment meetings, gained 5p to 123p.

Reckitt & Colman, the household goods group, slipped 5p to 635p although allowing for a dividend payment the shares managed a 10p improvement. NatWest Securities has emerged as sellers.

The signalled offer for ShareLink, the no-frills stockbroker, provided further speculative encouragement for the financial sector. ShareLink jumped 26p to 204p and stockbroker Brewin Dolphin gained 4p to 144p in sympathy. Perpetual, the fund manager, managed an 8p gain to 1,368p and Jupiter Tyndall, where the German Commerzbank is thought to hover, rose 2p to 395p.

Tomkins, the baking to gun making conglomerate, was firm at 239p. ABN Amro Hoare Govett was said to have downgraded its profit forecast from £344m to £335m and suggested profits should be taken. But Shaw & Co, in the same ownership as Hoare, took the opposite view. It said the shares were a buy although its profit forecast is down to £300m.

Shaw analyst Mike Tyerman selected Tomkins as one of his shares of the year when they were 216p. They have outperformed by 8.5 per cent and the current discount is "unjustified and the shares should be bought".

Booker, the food group, rose 3p to 397p. Results are due on Thursday. Williams de Broe is looking for a modest increase to £91.5m with £105m in the current year.

Waverley Mining gained 3p to 108p on vague talk of a deal with Coal Investments, up 6p at 98p, over Mining Scotland, the North of the Border coal miner where the two are substantial shareholders.

One suggestion is that Coal Investments will buy the Waverley interest in Mining Scotland; another is it will mount a full bid for Waverley which has extensive overseas mineral interests.

Alliance Resources, the oil group, ticked 0.25p better to 6.75p. It is thought to be near signing a development deal in Albania. The shares have been a weak market since it announced a US gas reserve that should transform the group. But persistent small selling has pulled the price back from 11.75p.

Hampden, the Ulster do-it-yourself retailer where J Sainsbury has nearly 30 per cent, came in for another run, up 5p to 49p. Ross, a struggling consumer products group, gained 1.5p to 6p on talk of a reverse takeover.

The day's best performer was the obscure Pascoe's Group. On the surface the pet food business, formerly called Sheldon Jones, surged 642 per cent to 89p. But once again it was largely an illusion; the product of a mundane capital reorganisation. Redbird, the Panamanian company with stakes in several UK groups, has a 15.5 per cent interest.

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