Market Report: BAT's cross-Atlantic trip leaves a bad impression

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BAT Industries, the financial services and tobacco group, must be pondering the wisdom of hauling 44 analysts and fund managers to view its US operations last week.

When the party left for California BAT's shares were 494p, just below their year's high. Although the FT-SE 100 index has made strong progress since then, BAT has looked decidedly friendless.

The shares were at one time down to 451p yesterday. They closed at 456p.

The US trip was intended to update the City about the group's US insurance operation, Farmers. But it also embraced a meeting with Brown & Williamson, BAT's important US cigarette group. Many appear to have come away from the B&W meeting feeling uneasy about the group's performance in the price war that has broken out among the leading US contenders for the cigarette market.

A succession of profit downgradings has followed. The latest to cut are Hoare Govett, cautious before the meetings, and SG Warburg.

Hoare has reduced its figure for this year from pounds 1.86bn to pounds 1.8bn; Warburg has come down from pounds 1.868bn to pounds 1.8bn.

Next year's estimates have also been cut, with Hoare at pounds 1.95bn but Warburg apparently shooting for a much lower figure.

The rest of the stock market was under the influence of US activity. The huge cash flow into US investment funds is forcing many US fund managers to look overseas for buying opportunties. Anticipating the hoped-for weight of US money has encouraged considerable futures trading, already buoyed by the summertime stampede by small investors into the market.

With interest talk back in force and upbeat comments from some strategists, the FT-SE 100 index seemed destined in early trading to reach a new peak. In the event enthusiasm paled as a few profit- takers appeared and the index closed 17.5 points higher at 3,085.2.

The second-line FT-SE 100 index was also in fine form, gaining 18.4 to 3,457.7. Trading was brisk although a share volume of 774.3 million was ballooned by trading in some low-priced issues.

Wiggins, the property group that returned to market after being pulled from the corporate graveyard, was one. Its shares, trading at 3p against a 9p suspension price, attracted volume of 48 million; the nil paid rights, at 0.5p, had an 11 million turnover.

Among the heavyweights, BTR was busily traded, with volume reaching 24 million as some lumpy lines went through. Salomon Brothers, the US house, again seemed to be responsible for much of the activity. The shares edged ahead to 378.5p.

British Airways climbed 9.5p to 368.5p, a new high, on the strong traffic growth last month. Smith New Court helped the progress, drawing attention to the improvement in the more lucrative upmarket travel.

But British Aerospace was again haunted by the on-off Taiwan jets deal. With talk that the Taiwanese were about to call off the proposed alliance the shares fell 9p to 411p.

SmithKline Beecham, ahead of the meeting that could decide whether its units remain in the FT-SE 100 index, gained 4p to 407p, with the threatened units 5p higher at 361p.

Vodafone, with Henderson Crosthwaite making bullish comments and US ADR shareholding reaching 29.04 per cent, edged ahead 3p to 522p. Glaxo Holdings, with US investors down to 20.84 per cent, rose 10p to 649p.

BT, making a presentation for its Cellnet mobile telephone operation next week, was little changed at 439p.

BICC, with a presentation on Friday, eased 4p to 421p. RTZ dipped 7p to 675p. NatWest Securities cut next year's forecast from pounds 470m to pounds 410m.

Mirror Group Newspapers held at 168p. On Friday Goldman Sachs sold 9.98 per cent, held as collateral for loans 'to a brokerage customer'.

Tadpole Technology, which has raised pounds 1.2m through a placing by Albert E Sharp, advanced 11p to 399p; Arlen, the electrical group, with presentations planned, rose 5p to 41p.

Manchester United, results today, jumped 26p to a 557p peak. Smith New Court looks for a trading profit of pounds 7.8m and points out that a European Cup run would add 'several million' to this year's outcome.

The FT-SE 100 index advanced 17.5 points to 3,085.2 and the FT-SE 250 index put on 18.4 points to 3,457.7. Turnover was 774.3 million shares with 31,429 bargains. The account ends on 15 October. Inflation gilts were strong.

Hopes that Anglo Eastern Plantations will enjoy an intriguing time under the control of Genton, a Hong Kong group, are growing. Genton is paying 68p a share for 48.08 per cent of Anglo. It is making a mandatory offer at the same price for the rest. After some uncertainty Anglo shares have edged ahead and are now comfortably above the offer price at 76p.

A ferment at Invergordon Distillers lifted the shares 20p to 288p. Whyte & Mackay, owned by American Brands, has confirmed talks with Fleming Investment Management about buying its stake. If a deal is struck the W&M interest will top 50 per cent and an offer will be made for the rest. FIM is part of the Robert Fleming group, Invergordon's advisers.

Shares of Drew Scientific, maker of medical equipment, are causing concern. Floated at 105p in May the shares raced ahead, reaching a 151p peak within a few days. But it has since been all downhill. They closed 6p lower at 80p. Credit Lyonnais Laing, the company's stockbroker, could feel the share performance calls for a statement from the company.

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