Market Report: BG and Centrica turn on the gas to reach fresh highs

BG was in rampant form once again. Talk of another share buy back and continuing speculation one of the oil giants plans a take over strike, spurred the shares 13.5p to a 319p peak.

As British Gas it had the dubious distinction of being the stock market's most derided blue chip. But since the bleak days when Cedric the pig was paraded as shareholders attended their yearly meeting, the group has been transformed and is now largely an oil and gas explorer and producer.

It has already astonished observers with a pounds 1.3bn share buy back. The subsequent disposal programme is thought to be running ahead of schedule and may pull in as much as pounds 1.5bn by the middle of the year. BG would be tempted to return such obvious wealth to its shareholders.

Its old stable mate, Centrica, is also enjoying a boom. The gas supply operation, split from BG nearly a year ago, was another in record breaking mode with a 7p gain to 103p. Many look for the shares to reach 125p in the next few weeks.

Although the Far Eastern crisis has failed to create the market dismay many expected there is, nevertheless, a growing appreciation of domestic groups which have little or no Asian exposure. Centrica features high in any stay-at-home portfolio.

At the time of the split BG was around 150p; Centrica, helped by bid hopes, floated at 70p before falling to 56.25p in May.

Blue chips dominated the action with Footsie up 58.9 points to 5,165.8. The rest of the pack was in a more subdued mood.

Dresdner Kleinwort Benson comments lifted Sun Life & Provincial 29p to 499p and Merrill Lynch inspired Orange 14.5p to 267.5p.

Much of the take over speculation centred on Inchcape and Somerfield. The international trader, savaged by currency movements and then the turmoil in the Tiger economies, gained 12.5p to 155.5p. A dead cat bounce - or corporate activity? The market seemed evenly divided. The speculative hopes appeared to be pinned on a US predator although there was talk of a break up.

Somerfield, the supermarket chain, lost some of its momentum although it ended above its low at 248.5p, off 2.5p. The revival was due to US buying. The market is now content to rule out a major British group emerging as a bidder and is now looking towards a Continental discounter such as Lidl.

Holidays group Airtours, which has announced a two-for-one share bonus, shaded 7.5p to 1327.5p as bid fever cooled.

The latest round of retail trading statements was largely disappointing. Laura Ashley tumbled 8.5p to 26p; La Senza 2.5p to 19p and House of Fraser 16p to 203.5p. Argos, reporting tomorrow, lost 33p to 505p. Dixons remained depressed after Wednesday's disappointing sales update, giving up a further 19p at 505p.

Cadbury Schweppes' new US distribution and manufacturing deal with Coca- Cola provided further sparkle, up 14p to 699p. NatWest said buy; UBS suggested selling.

General Electric Co. held at 391p. Its pounds 300m share buy back was completed with the purchase of 4 million shares at 390.5p.

Imperial Chemical Industries rose 25p to 955p following an analysts meeting and engineer IMI, once part of ICI, fell 7.5p to 413.5p on rumoured Schroders caution.

BTR continued to find new lows, off a further 3.25p at 165.75p.

Financials made more headway. Barclays was again prominent with a 49p gain to 1,707p; Woolwich put on 10p to 334p.

The encouraging casino and hotel results from Stakis, up 7.5p to 98.5p, inspired Ladbroke to a 15.5p gain at 292.5p.

Superscape VR hardened to 113p after a presentation at Henderson Crosthwaite for its 3D Lego-on-screen development.

EW Fact, the educational group, held at 67p. It duly confirmed it was in talks with a possible bidder but warned profits would not be up to scratch. BPP, the market's favourite to strike, said it was not involved in talks with EWF. It has a 3.57 per cent stake.

Xenova climbed 27p to 172p following an alliance with the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research to isolate plant chemicals which could be used in the treatment of diseases. The shares touched 435p last year.

Profit warnings took their toll. Portmeirion Potteries cracked 53p to 240p; Global, hit by the ban on beer off the bone and the Indonesian crisis, lost 3.5p to 9.75p.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application) - Agile

£215 per day: Ashdown Group: Junior Project Manager (website, web application ...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before