Market Report: Brewery share placing enlivens second-liners

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The Independent Online
AS BLUE chips wilted, much of the stock market action took place among second-liners, with a pounds 28.6m beer share placing creating much of the excitement.

Hoare Govett took centre stage as it sold Greene King's 28.8 per cent shareholding in its neighbour Morland, bringing to a conclusion one of the most bitter and intriguing takeover battles the City has witnessed in recent years.

The securities house paid 460p for each Morland share and placed them with institutions at 465p. The shares, it appeared, were quickly taken up. Morland fell 15p to 493p but Greene King, freed of the lingering worry that it might resume hostilities, gained 16p to 537p.

Greene King, an East Anglian group, descended on Morland two years ago. It picked up a large line of stock from Whitbread and started the confrontation with more than 43 per cent of Morland shares under its corporate belt.

The result seemed a foregone conclusion. But Morland mounted such a convincing defence that Greene King suffered a humiliating defeat, retiring with a 28.8 per cent shareholding.

The shares were acquired at an average price of 450p, producing a pounds 600,000 profit before carrying costs.

Greene King's decision to quit the Morland scene came as no surprise. Earlier this year it had resisted the temptation to increase its shareholding sharply when Whitbread sold most of its stakes in regional brewers, including a residual 11.8 per cent interest in Morland.

The rest of the market was deep in the doldrums, although most of the despair was concentrated on blue chips, hit by vague stories of hedge funds tormenting the futures market, determined overseas selling and weak bond markets.

Shares also started to fret about today's 'Ken and Eddie' meeting, although the view that interest rates will not be increased prevailed in most quarters. Government stocks suffered losses of more than pounds 1.

The FT-SE 100 index fell 36.1 points to 3,205.4. The supporting FT-SE 250 index restricted its loss to 6.3 points at 3,782.4.

Electricities staged some gains, but South Western gave up 7p to 803p. It continued its buy-in, picking up 750,000 shares at 805p. More than 4.25 million have now been purchased.

Manweb generated interest, jumping 20p to 821p as it announced a restructuring of its distribution business.

It is unlikely to follow the examples of South Western and Eastern and indulge in a buy-in through the market. Manweb is, however, likely to achieve the same objective by making a tender offer to all shareholders.

Panmure Gordon is keen on the shares. It expects dividends to increase by at least 9 per cent plus inflation.

Banks were mixed. TSB failed to hold a 5p gain on takeover hopes, closing unchanged at 233p.

Carlton Communications, another involved in a restructuring, rose 12p to 857p with Smith New Court among the securities houses recommending the shares.

It is merging parts of its Carlton and Central television operations, although it says the two will retain what it calls 'their distinctive regional identities'.

Reckitt & Colman, the household goods group, continued to be weighed down by rights issue fears.

The shares fell 15p to 597p as the market became more convinced that it will soon be hit by a big cash call to finance the acquisition of Eastman Kodak's household goods division.

Yet another sale by Eastman, this time its diagnostic side, strengthened the feeling that a Reckitt deal is near.

Gibbs Mew, the Salisbury brewer, frothed up 24p to 420p as the cash call to help it buy a pub chain received a 94.3 per cent take-up. Panmure Gordon placed the rump at 391p.

Lasmo, at one time up 3p, settled for a 1p gain at 156p. The oil group's interim figures are due next week. Talk persists that Enterprise Oil, little changed at 391p, will be tempted soon to unload its 9.8 per cent stake, acquired in controversial fashion during its failed takeover bid.

Garage groups were ruffled as the disappointing level of August 'M' registrations, up 2.81 per cent, was confirmed. Lex Service fell 12p to 384p.

British Biotechnology rose 22p to 455p. It is due to report on one of its new drugs today.

Rodime's latest run fizzled out - the shares lost 2.5p to 14p. But the architects Whinny Mackay- Lewis rose 4p to 43p.

Aviva Petroleum sticks at 43p, its year's low. Although the timing of its Colombian operation has slipped, the group expects to produce 20,000 barrels a day by the first quarter of next year. Current output is 5,000 barrels. A nominal loss is now likely this year with the group in the black next. Clearance has been received for the next stage of Aviva's Colombian development.

Billy Whitbread, formerly a director and investment manager of Whitbread Investment Company, swallowed by Whitbread last year, will run the Lazard Brewers Investment Trust, being rolled out this month by Lazard and Greig Middleton, to invest in regional beer shares. They are already edging ahead in anticipation of the trust building a portfolio of quoted and 4.2 stocks.

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