Market Report: Allders' first-day success not matched by Sidney

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The Independent Online
TWO newcomers encountered contrasting receptions as the stock market experienced another roller-coaster session.

Allders, the department store and duty-free shops group, was a traditional new issue success, climbing 14p to 184p in busy trading. Sentiment was helped by recent strong air passenger figures.

But Charles Sidney, a Mercedes-Benz dealer, had an unexpectedly bumpy ride. The shares were sold at 110p. Consternation followed when they plunged to 85p at the opening. Later they rallied, closing at the 110p issue price.

Sidney, hived off from the Albert Fisher food group, had been expected to roll smoothly, achieving a modest premium.

There was talk that institutions, displeased with their allocations under the placing and public offer routine, had sabotaged early dealings by standing aside, refusing to pick up stock as small investors, expecting a premium, scrambled to sell.

Both groups used the placing and public offer route to market, with big investors taking up the placing and in the main the punters absorbing the public offer.

There is a feeling in some quarters that in many cases too many shares are reserved for the public. And Sidney, a relatively small flotation valued at pounds 26m, presented the disgruntled with an ideal opportunity to make their point.

After standing off in early dealings institutions started to gather shares, moving in at the lower price and enabling the price to recover.

The FT-SE 100 index, at one time down 15.3 points, ended 2.5 higher at 3,098.5. For much of the session it traded above 3,100.

American influences and the juggling of positions in the futures market created much of the activity, with turnover approaching 800 million shares.

Among blue chips BT put on 3.5p to 463.5 as the US investment house Merrill Lynch said buy. But Imperial Chemical Industries, down 12p at 698p, was undermined by the signalled dividend cut by Hoechst, the German chemicals group.

This week's chemicals merger between Akzo of the Netherlands and Nobel of Sweden, which topples ICI from its perch as Europe's biggest paint maker, is also damaging sentiment.

BTR edged ahead 3.5p to 354p, with Goldman Sachs said to be making favourable noises.

American selling caught some drugs shares. Zeneca, making a dollars 300m debt offering in the US, fell 16p to 737p, a two-day fall of 26p. Fisons, beset by questions over its selling methods, continued to find new lows, down 4.5p at 138.5p.

Lucas Industries was hit by a bout of profit-taking, off 2.5p at 176.5p. The market is bemused about the apparent delay in appointing George Simpson, currently with British Aerospace, as chief executive.

Water shares recovered some of their recent falls. SG Warburg is positive on the sector, suggesting Severn Trent, Southern and Thames as a core portfolio. Electricities were firm, undaunted by disappointment over National Power's display, which left its shares down 9.5p at 402.5p.

The approval of the Whitbread restructuring created ripples among regional drinks groups. Boddington, down 4p at 251p, and Marston Thompson & Evershed, 9p off at 272p, were lowered on worries that the Whitbread stakes in them will be sold in the market.

Grand Metropolitan, buying a 21 per cent interest in the Laurent- Perrier champagne house, dipped another 2p to 384p.

Euro Disney crashed 72p to a new low of 436p on the bigger- than-expected loss.

Etam, the fashion retailer, fell 8p to 244p as peace broke out with Oceana Investment, ending hopes of another bid battle. Betterware, the direct selling group, was again weak, down 11p at 169p.

J Bibby, the South African-controlled industrial group, fell 11p to 68p as it disclosed a profits plunge and axed its final dividend.

Hartstone, the hard-pressed giftware group, held at 49p. FMR, the US investment group specialising in recovery situations, has picked up another 1 million shares, lifting its stake to 13.12 per cent.

First National Finance Corporation dropped 11p to 59p on suggestions that losses could hit pounds 30m.

Delta, the engineering group where Sir Martin Jacomb, former head of Barclays de Zoete Wedd, is due to become chairman, fell 4p to 465p as Smith New Court cut its profit forecasts.

It lowered this year's figure from pounds 65m to pounds 55m and next year's from pounds 72m to pounds 63.5m.

Avesco, the computer video group, improved 6p to 110p. It is the latest to forge a trading link with IBM, the US giant.

International Food Machinery was again weighed down by its profit warning. The shares closed another 3p lower at 32p, making a two-day fall of 22p.

They steadied after it became known that J M Holroyd, managing director, had bought 70,000 shares at 28.5p. His shareholding is now 22.75 per cent.

The FT-SE 100 index ended 2.5 points higher at 3,098.5 and the FT-SE 250 index rose 0.6 to 3,440.4. Turnover was 778.1 million shares from 28,736 bargains. The account ends tomorrow with settlement on 22 November. Government stocks gave ground.

Hobson, the toiletries group, slid 1p to 15p as Hawknote, related to David Thompson of Hillsdown Holdings fame, sold 43 per cent of the capital. The shares went to six institutions. Richard Thompson, Queens Park Rangers chairman and son of David, is chairman and has 8 per cent. The departure of Hawknote is thought to herald takeover action by Hobson.

Boustead, once a significant player in the Far East, has sold its controlling stake in its Singapore company to Jack Chia- MPH Limited for pounds 12.8m, which equals 20p per Boustead share. Jack Chia controls Boustead which, besides net cash of pounds 11m, has an automotive parts business in the UK. It will use the cash for expansion. Boustead's shares rose 6p to 25p.