Market Report: Barclays shares rise after downgrading

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The Independent Online
BARCLAYS, the battered banking group under intense pressure over its property loans, had to contend with a profit downgrading by its securities arm yesterday.

But the revised forecast came as a relief to the stock market. Barclays de Zoete Wedd's banking analyst, Julian Robins, merely adjusted his figures to accommodate the latest Barclays disaster, its involvement with the stricken Imry property group. He now looks for a pounds 110m loss this year against earlier expectations of a pounds 65m deficit. Next year's figure is unchanged - a profit of pounds 375m.

BZW has not changed its dividend expectation. It still believes the year's payment will be slashed from 21.15p a share to 14.15p. The BZW stance left the shares 9p higher at 383p.

The banking group, which achieved profits of pounds 1.39bn in 1988, has been hit by a series of debt provisions, likely to reach pounds 2bn. Its latest reverse was confirmed earlier this month when it had to come to the rescue of Imry, which owed the bank pounds 440m.

Besides the questions raised by its disastrous property exposure, Barclays has also been involved in a long-running controversy over the appointment of Andrew Buxton to the combined jobs of chairman and chief executive.

His proposed dual role has angered some institutions, which have campaigned for the functions of chairman and chief executive to be separated. Barclays has promised the dual Buxton role will be split 'as soon as possible'.

The rest of the market continued its record-breaking run, helped by activity on the futures front. The three indices hit new peaks, with the FT-SE 100 stretching to 2,842 points, up 34.3. Once again, trading was busy with turnover for the fourth day topping 800,000 shares.

But some big tax-effective bed and breakfast deals helped to balloon volume. Ladbroke Group, down 5p at 184p, was the subject of one large b&b deal. All-told, b&b trading was thought to account for more than pounds 100m of turnover.

The tantalising prospect of lower interest rates continued to create demand. Many are convinced that Germany will edge its rates lower early in the new year, leaving the way clear for another UK cut.

Institutional buying, partly for year-end window dressing, and the continuing revival of private investor confidence kept the market on its toes.

Savoy Hotel, a narrow market, was one of the day's outstanding performers. Takeover hopes pushed the low voting 'A' shares up 80p to 713p. The shares have soared since Sir Hugh Wontner, a fierce defender of the Savoy's independence, died last month.

The popular talk is that Forte, the majority shareholder in the Savoy but lacking control, will try to mop up the shares it does not own. But under a standstill pact Forte, which has sold its contract catering operation, cannot increase its stake until the end of 1994.

Lower interest rate hopes were good for bank shares but Standard Chartered's 24p jump to 568p owed much to a James Capel recommendation and the pounds 200m sale of Far Eastern investments and properties, regarded as, in effect, a rights issue by the market.

Imperial Chemical Industries had to contend with another profit downgrading. Smith New Court was thought to have done the damage. It has come down from pounds 575m to pounds 550m for this year and from pounds 740m to pounds 700m for next. The shares, however, managed to put on 10p to 1,035p.

British Airways, as the USAir deal collapsed, rose 5p to 307p. Redland, spurred by a variety of influences including buy suggestions from SG Warburg and Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull, jumped 34p to 424p, a two-day gain of 49p. But takeover favourite Tarmac fell 3p to 110p as forecasts were lowered after meetings with analysts.

Mallett, the London antique dealer, jumped 19p to 73p as a bidder, thought to be Asprey, the jeweller, materialised.

Pubs chain J D Wetherspoon, floated last month at 160p, continued to make progress, closing 6p higher at 210p. Other drink shares were strong, with Allied- Lyons improving 11p to 661p.

Clyde Petroleum, following the award of two North Sea exploration licences, edged forward 2.5p to 37.5p. Premier Consoldiated Oilfields, also winning a new licence, rose 1.5p to 24p.

Aran Energy was another oil stock to move higher. It rose 1p to 17p, reflecting its 20 per cent interest in a North Sea block where oil has been discovered. Pict Petroleum, with a 10 per cent interest in the field, improved 2p to 98p.

Shares were again in exhilarating form, with the three leading indices hitting new highs. The FT-SE 100 index rose 34.3 points to 2,842, the FT-SE 250 gained 28 to 2,845.4 and the FT-SE 350 advanced 16.1 to 1,385.1. Turnover reached 815.1 million shares with 31,402 bargains. Gilts stocks rose by up to pounds 1/2.

Alexander Russell, Scotland's biggest sand and gravel group, continues to attract the attentions of the RMC giant. After sharply increasing its stake last week RMC has now lifted its shareholding to 26.77 per cent, buying another 1.4 million shares. The shares appear to have come from a group related to the Starmin construction group. Russell shares are 63p.

Upton & Southern Holdings, the department store and property group, held at 5p yesterday as a revamping exercise was unveiled. The group is raising pounds 785,000 through a placing of 100 million shares at 1p. Jeffrey Gould, who used to run the John Kent menswear retailing group, will become chief executive. U&S intends to sell its property operations.