Market Report: 85 million Clyde shares change hands as Gulf war rages

The fierce battle for control of Clyde Petroleum moved into the stock market as bidders Gulf Canada scooped up around 85 million shares. The buying spree, conducted by Cazenove, lifted the Canadian stake to approaching 28 per cent of Clyde's capital.

The struggle has become increasingly acrimonious; last week the Canadians were forced to lift their offer by 15p a share to 120p, putting a pounds 495m price tag on the company. The battle is due to close next week.

PDFM, with 14 per cent, and CIN Management, holding 3.2 per cent, were among institutions bailing out at prices around 120p.

The rest of the market, in effect, reversed Monday's display. For much of the session blue chips were in gentle decline awaiting New York's lead. When Wall Street produced a solid opening equities started to shake off their indifference and by the close an 18.8-point fall had been reduced to 3.4 at 4,304.3.

Turnover nudged 1 billion shares with the Clyde swoop and busy trading in Asda and Reuters making significant contributions. Little Emerald Energy flared a further 1.25p to 6.5p ahead of its presentation on its Colombian oil prospects with Seaq putting volume at nearly 45 million.

Superstores had an eventful session with stories of analyst downgrades swirling around. BZW and ABN Amro Hoare Govett were said to be preparing to do the damage. Hoare denied any involvement; nobody was available at BZW to comment.

The market could not make up its mind whether an investment house was about to go negative on the sector or direct its attention at one particular group.

Tesco was the favourite for individual treatment, falling 11p to 331.5p. Asda was traded 3.75p lower to 112p; Safeway 11p to 346.5p and J Sainsbury 6p to 314.5p.

Oils were weak with British Petroleum's figures offering no encouragement. BP lost 27p to 694p, dragging Shell, results tomorrow, 15.5p down to 1,053.5p. Enterprise Oil tumbled 24p to 648.5p and Lasmo 12p to 242p. Other recent high-flyers, such as British Borneo Petroleum Syndicate and Cairn Energy felt the strain - Borneo lost 41p to 1,315p and Cairn 14p to 539.5p.

Reuters, the information group, was another unsettled by figures. The shares closed 16p down at 626p. Before the results they were up 18.5p and then dipped briefly below 600p when the profits were announced.

Unilever, the Anglo Dutch giant, was the star of the day, outpacing other blue chips with a 78.5p gain to 1,471.5p following its results and the planned sale of its speciality chemical side.

The food and soap giant's exuberance filtered through to Reckitt & Colman, up 18p to 727.5p, as some observers wondered whether the household products group could fall into Unilever's take over sights.

Associated British Foods, 15p in the money to 496p, and Cadbury Schweppes, 5p to 482p, were among shares to draw strength from the Unilever experience.

BAT Industries, reflecting hopes of some easing of US litigation pressures, put on 21p to 535.5p and Allied Domecq marched 13.5p higher to 428.5p after a mildly encouraging trading statement.

Utilities were under pressure as windfall tax worries suddenly gnawed at confidence. Thames Water was lowered 17.5p to 665p and ScottishPower 10p to 361.5p. Railtrack's express performance prompted the inevitable "take profits" advice. Teather & Greenwood sent out the sell signal, leaving the shares just 3p off at 388.5p.

Electrocomponents dipped 23.5p to 425.5p on Merrill Lynch caution and Eurotherm produced a gloomy trading statement, falling 10p to 473.5p. PolyMasc Pharmaceutical, the drugs group, gave up 6.5p to 125p; the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine sold more shares. The latest disposal is 600,000 shares, cutting its stake to 18.47 per cent. The school needs the cash because of government cuts. It says it has "no intention at present" of selling more shares.

Health shares generally had another string of gains with British Biotech up 10p at 250p, highest since July, and Biocompatibles International making further headway with a 60p jump to 1,350p. Shield Diagnostic gained 18.5p to 303.5p.

Newcomer Zicor, a Canadian miner, made an impressive debut. Placed at 18p, to raise pounds 850,000, the price moved to 25.5p before settling at 24.5p. Wedderburn, a property group, held at 18.75p. It has said it has a significant acquisition in mind.

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