Market Report: British Gas injects activity into lethargic market

Energy shares managed to inject a little activity into a lacklustre stock market, again weighed down by concerns over the Budget.

British Gas was the catalyst for the energy display. The shares jumped 19.5p to 228.5p, the highest since June, as the long-running rumour of a takeover bid from the Shell oil giant was dusted down and given sudden prominence.

The market has grown increasingly convinced that Shell, as well as British Petroleum, are casting around for major acquisitions. Besides British Gas, the two generators, National Power and PowerGen, have in recent weeks been put forward as likely victims of the ambitions of the oil giants.

BP gained 5p to 675p and Shell 10.5p to 996.5p. National Power rose 8.5p to 453.5p and PowerGen 8p to 573p. ScottishPower joined in, adding 7p to 329p.

Most oils were firm. Lasmo put on 5p to 213.5p as Panmure Gordon drew attention to the group's attractions and predicted the shares would top 300p by the end of next year.

Lasmo has the distinction of beating off a takeover assault from Enterprise Oil. It is still looked upon as a bid candidate, with a US strike thought likely to emerge.

Hopes the remaining electricity distributors will soon be engulfed in corporate action lifted London Electricity 10.5p to 636.5p and Yorkshire Electricity 11p to 746.5p.

British Energy, figures on Thursday, was squeezed 2.5p higher to a 126p peak.

Elsewhere activity was inhibited not only by the Budget but by growing uncertainty over interest rates and the problems the strength of sterling is creating for some companies.

Government stocks scored gains on the back of the PSBR figures.

Footsie could muster only a 3.9-points gain to 3,962.1 with second and third-line stocks mostly in retreat.

Cookson, the industrial materials group, fell 10p to 226.5p as the rumoured bid - Friday's hot tip - failed to materialise.

BT fell 6.5p to 364.5p, overshadowed by first-time dealings in Deutsche Telekom.

Profit warnings undermined sentiment. Forward, a maker of printed circuit boards, crashed 149.5p to 132p; Meltek, a computer support group, slumped 25p to 72.5p; and Colleagues, a recruitment group, suffered a 17p fall to 52.5p despite the promise of a maintained final dividend. Although the accompanying trading statement was subdued, it was a cross of 770,000 shares at 50p which created the hesitancy. Publisher Rushmere Wynne shaded 0.25p to 2p following a warning of a 10-month pounds 100,000 loss.

Vanguard Medica jumped 55p to 565p as the SmithKline Beecham giant confirmed plans to market its migraine drug. Toad, the vehicle securities group, advanced 7.5p to 87.5p; it has won two contracts which could push the fledgling group close to break-even.

WS Atkins, an engineering consultant, reached its highest since its July flotation. It has achieved the contract to be project manager of the first phase of an electronic components plant in South Wales. Sold at 215p, the shares gained 26p to 348.5p.

Jefferson Smurfit, the packaging and paper group, added 2.5p to 166.5p as Salomon Brothers said buy. The shares are down 27 per cent from their peak, hit two years ago, and Salomon says the company has an "impressive track record of buying undervalued and earnings-enhancing assets; it has never built a new paper machine".

House of Fraser continued to attract bid speculation, up 5.5p to 157p. Hambros, the merchant bank which has seen off vulture fund Regent Pacific, gained 12p to 247.5p as favourable comment from Barclays de Zoete Wedd mingled with thoughts that the group is still vulnerable to a strike.

Provend, the vending machine group, made a lively debut, briefly trailing its placing price but ending with a 7.5p gain at 132.5p.

Ockham's decision to float its stockbroking arm, Wise Speke, left the insurance group 2.5p down at 82.5p.

Bluebird, the toy maker, was enlivened by the $755m US toys merger between Mattel and Tyco Toys. The prospect of more toy deals in the run-up to Christmas was enough to lift Bluebird 13.5p to 180p. The shares, however, have had a dismal run, falling from 357p earlier this year.

Fibernet, rolling out a national network linking computers with faxes, telephones and videos, edged forward 2p to 124.5p after reporting a pounds 328,000 profit. Stockbroker Greig Middleton expects a loss of pounds 1.9m this year with a surge into profits of pounds 10.4m in the following year.

Taking Stock

rEmerald Energy stuck at 2.5p. It has, through an institutional placing by stockbroker WH Ireland, raised pounds 7.5m and stands to get a further pounds 4.3m from a placing and open offer.

The cash is needed to develop oil projects in Columbia. Dr Keith Hewitt, leading the Colombian charge, has enjoyed remarkable success in the areas Emerald is exploring. It is said the projects each have the potential of 1 billion barrels of oil.

rEyecare Products, a spectacles maker, has formed a company with Lantis, a US group, which involves the marketing of the high profile Donna Karan range.

Lantis is paying 37.5p for a 15 per cent stake in Eyecare and has an option to buy another 12.3 per cent at between 47.5p and 57.5p. Eyecare rose 3.5p to 33p.

Suggested Topics
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Helpdesk Analyst

£23000 per annum + pension and 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ...

Senior Helpdesk Analyst / Service Desk Co-ordinator

£27000 per annum + pension, 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ind...

Senior Pensions Administrator

£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Corporate Actions Administrator / Operations Administrator

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Corporate Actions Administrator / Operations Admini...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album