MARKET REPORT : BSkyB hit as Granada dumping claim proves a myth

It was one of the best, certainly the most successful, rumour for many a moon. As the stock market shivered in the wake of New York's fall, a story gathered strength that Granada was in the process of dumping its 10.8 per cent stake in BSkyB, the satellite television station.

By mid-morning, with City screens trumpeting the sale, BSkyB had fallen and Granada advanced. The deals were said to be at 525p a share which seemed a reasonable enough discount to the then ruling BSkyB price.

But the rumours were wide of the mark - someone, somewhere got their wires crossed. Whether they also made a turn out of the rumours only a Stock Exchange investigation has any chance, and its probably a remote one, of discovering.

At one stage BSkyB shares were down 18p; they closed 13.5p off at 566p. Granada, after gaining 12.5p, ended 7.5p higher at 867.5p.

It is widely believed Granada will eventually sell its stake and it would be surprising if it has not received bids from leading investment houses.

The leisure group has made slow progress realising the assets captured with its pounds 3.9bn Forte acquisition and has shown an inclination to hang on to bits of Forte which had appeared to be early candidates for its hit list.

The rest of the market had a hangover session after Thursday's ebullient party. Footsie fell 52.7 points to 4,218.8, cutting the week's gain to a marginal 11.1 points. The supporting FTSE 250 index fell 18, reducing its week's progress to 14.6.

New York did the damage. After trading strongly throughout most of Thursday it plunged sharply in late trading and continued to wallow in the doldrums while London was open yesterday.

Racal Electronics enjoyed a late run as a variety of rumours flowed - ranging from a possible bid to the sale of a big subsidiary. The shares jumped 19.5p to 268.5p with a few chunky buyers appearing as the market closed.

SmithKline Beecham and Zeneca lost their way in the general malaise. A rumour in the futures market that long-tipped bidder Roche had turned its sights on a US company added to the unease. SmithKline fell 16.5p to 863.5p and Zeneca 38.5p to 1,685p.

J Sainsbury made a significant contribution to the gloom. The Footsie constituent tumbled 51p to 341p. Its poor trading statement contained a profits warning and it also produced, as feared, exceptional do-it-yourself charges. The Sainsbury setback unsettled other superstore groups.

House of Fraser underlined the retail sector's problem, falling 3.5p to 142p. It is due to trot out its festive trading statement on Monday and MeesPierson forecasts miserable growth of 1 or 2 per cent. Last year HoF announced worse-than-expected half-year losses of pounds 13.6m. It should give details of its store closure programme.

London Clubs International spun 22p higher to 367p following its US expansion and GKN put on 10p to 998.5p on Merrill Lynch backing.

Williams Holdings was little changed at 333.5p. Barclays de Zoete Wedd sees profits for last year advancing to pounds 327.8m.

Sears fell 2p to 86p as Greig Middleton said the shares were riding more on hope than judgement and should be sold.

BTR slipped 3.5p to 263p. NatWest Securities suggest it should buy in its 1997 warrants which offer the right to take-up shares at 258p. Such an exercise would cost pounds 28m but send a clear message to the market that "management is determined to pursue the creation of shareholder value".

Big mover of the day, a remarkable 34 per cent gain to 231p, was English National Investment Co, the Joseph Lewis vehicle which has popped up as a 25.1 per cent shareholder in Glasgow Rangers. More high-profile deals are promised. Enic last year acquired a 20.1 per cent interest in AutoNomy, which has a software package for searching the Internet. The shares were 47p a year ago.

Verity, with a new-style sound system, gained 3p to 37p after a presentation to institutional investors. Flying Flowers rose 2p to 202.5p; stockbroker Beeson Gregory is forecasting profits of pounds 3.8m will be announced on St Valentine's Day. Electronic Retailing Systems, raising pounds 95m through the sale of discount notes and warrants, held at 325p.

After the market closed TT, the mini-conglomerate, said it had sold its 8.46 per cent in Roxboro, the electronic equipment group. The deals appeared to have taken place at 183p, lowering the market price from 191p to 183p. TT's average buying price was 139p.

Taking Stock

The Whitbread leisure group seems to have sold its 4.5 per cent shareholding in Surrey Free Inns.

The deal went through at 460p, a 20p premium to the then ruling market price. SFI, known for its Litten Tree chain, ended 21.5p higher at 460p, a peak. The shares are thought to have been picked up by institutional investors with Regent Inns, sitting on a threatening 6.1 per cent, not increasing its stake. This week SFI rolled out a 72 per cent interim profits advance and Martin Hawkins at Greig Middleton expects year's profits to come out at pounds 2.3m with pounds 3.5m next year.

Surrey, an unrelated betting group with golf ambitions, placed 21 million shares through stockbroker Ellis & Partners, raising pounds 209,000. The price held at 1p.