Market report: BSE begins to eat away at dairy and food sectors

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BSE is beginning to eat away at equities. The stock market has been inclined to shrug off the damaging implications of the disaster, content to mark down the shares of the most obvious casualties.

But there is now evidence of much deeper worries. Dairy and food shares are coming under increasing pressure and the market is fretting about the impact the beef crisis is likely to have on the Government's already stretched finances and, therefore, its election strategy and tax policy.

Almost every food group where there is a meat influence felt the weight of selling.

Dalgety lost 14p to 424p; Devro International 7p to 245p; Sentry Farming 14p to 159p and Whitchurch 4p to 35p. Grand Metropolitan, the Burger King group, fell 4p to 430p and Gowrings, a leading Burger King retailer, 3p to 85p.

Groups with extensive milk interests also felt the tidal wave of alarm. Northern Foods collapsed 16p to 183p; Robert Wiseman 25p to 137p and Unigate 30p to 407p.

Waste disposal groups could benefit from any slaughter programme and Leigh Interests added 2p to 99p.

The FT-SE 100 index retreated 25.1 points to 3,681.9, with dividend payments accounting for nearly 12 points of the fall. The supporting index gave up its rip-roaring run to close with a 7.8 fall to 4,296.5.

Government stocks made progress, seemingly on the back of the Government's decision to make no new moves to curb beef sales. Gains of around a point were recorded in late trading.

Thorn EMI provided the day's takeover flutter. The shares jumped 15p to 1,683p on talk that the proposed music and rental demerger will be scuppered - by a bid for the group. US giant Time Warner was said to be the name in the frame, prepared to offer pounds 22 a share.

Although the story lacked conviction, some were prepared to give it more than passing interest. Thorn is not far off its 12-month high and there is little doubt that anyone prepared to bid for the combined group would steal a march on the rumoured array of entertainment groups queuing to buy Thorn's music side.

But the suggested pounds 22 a share offer is well ahead of many break-up valuations, which nudge pounds 20.

The Halifax pounds 800m take over of Clerical Medical left National Westminster Bank, rumoured as the buyer, unchanged at 647p, as the market took the view the bank may decide to soak up some of its cash pile through a share buy-back.

On the oil pitch Lasmo held at 184p. Salomon Brothers has moved its recommendation from buy to hold.

Glaxo Wellcome slipped 5p to 812p. The Nikko investment group believe the shares are oversold.

Zeneca fell 2p to 1,351p as a series of five-day-old late trades appeared on dealing screens.

Securicor had an active time as it moved to give votes to all and tidy up its corporate image, leaving itself open to a bid, possibly from BT. The Securicor voting shares jumped 200p to 1,805p with the non-voters 67p higher at 1,055p. Security Services gained 65p to 1,050p.

Gathering talk of a BT/Cable and Wireless merger had a negligible impact. BT fell 3.5p to 339p, equalling its year's low, and Cable gave up 3p to 487p.

Inchcape, the international trader, survived its profit slump, dividend cut and boardroom upheaval to produce a 10p gain to 272p.

Manchester United, top of the Premiership and with interim figures due today, jumped 28p to 286p.

Insurances were unsteady as NatWest Securities fretted about US exposure. Sun Alliance fell 8p to 367p.

HP Bulmer, the cider maker improved 3p to 582p as it absorbed one of the few remaining cider independents, Inch, for pounds 23.3m.

Among third liners, Stanford Rook, developing a TB treatment crashed 145p to 455p and Firecrest, the internet group, lost 32p to 90p as it announced plans to raise pounds 1.5m through a placing at 50p.

First Information, a CD Rom group, made a firm debut, moving from a 165p placing to 181p.

Tepnel Diagnostics gained 3p to 66p. The long awaited cash call and progress report should be out in the next two weeks.

Bula Resources, which started drilling a development well at its Salymskoye oilfield in Siberia, gained 0.75p to 2.5p; Pan Andean, on a positive statement, jumped 13p to 82p and Millwall, planning to become a media power, rose 0.75p to 3.25p.

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