Market Report: BT calls Footsie to a resounding recovery

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The Independent Online
FOOTSIE'S SIX-DAY losing run ended with a resounding recovery in often hectic trading. The blue chip index closed 118.3 points higher at 5,888.5, with share turnover again topping 1.2 billion.

Indeed, one of the most remarkable aspects of this year's stock market performance has been the heady trading volumes which should, at least on the surface, bring comfort to many harassed traders allegedly threatened with redundancy.

Last year 1 billion turnover levels were rare; so far this year they have occurred with monotonous regularity. One explanation is the increased interest in non Footsie shares. The mid and small cap indices have enjoyed strong runs this year as takeover activity has drawn attention to the hitherto ignored values lurking on the under card. The mid cap index rose 29.4 to 5,187 and the small cap index kept up its remarkable run with a further 9.5 gain to 2,225.8.

A strong New York display and better-than-expected company developments helped inspire yesterday's sudden recovery.

Best performing blue chip was BT as the market struggled to come to terms with its unexpected sales surge and profits fall. The shares rose an incredible 11.2 per cent to 1,009.5p as sales rather than profits caught the eye. A remarkable Seaq volume of more than 32 million shares underlined the excitement.

Not surprisingly other telecom shares found themselves dialling the right numbers. Colt Telecom recovered 85p to 1,133p and Cable & Wireless 49p to 824.5p.

Glaxo Wellcome was on a high, up 99p at 2,025p. The drugs group, it is believed, was engaged in a detailed presentation relating to some of its drugs, possibly in the US. Results are due next week with the market looking for around pounds 2.5bn, down from pounds 2.7bn in the previous year.

Although Glaxo suffered a flat profits year many analysts are convinced growth is about to resume. But there is a wide spread belief that Glaxo needs another deal. For a long while the market felt it would descend on Zeneca, but it has so far shown no inclination to barge into the drug group's proposed merger with Astra of Sweden.

A spoiling bid for Zeneca, up 25p to 2,579p, must remain a possibility before the Astra deal goes before Zeneca shareholders next week.

Lloyds TSB, with figures today, rose 26.5p to 784.5p. A nagging suspicion lurks that the Black Horse group could accompany its results with a takeover strike. But the punters in Allied Irish Banks, a favourite for the Lloyds treatment, seemed to have given up the ghost with the shares easing 3.5p to 1,107.5p.

Other banks moved ahead with Barclays, on the arrival of Michael O'Neill as chief executive, jumping 74p to 1,420p. Mortgage banks, hit hard in recent days as worries have multiplied about competition in the housing market, staged a moderate rally with Halifax 27p firmer at 736p.

Beers were as flat as yesterday's pint. Although the European Union cleared Whitbread's pub leases, the shares fell 37.5p to 869p. Apparently the brewer failed to impress Schroders at a one-to-one meeting. Bass lost 20.5p to 786.5p and Scottish & Newcastle 22p to 704.5p. Worries of bids for either First Leisure or Vaux weighed on sentiment.

Struggling Allied Domecq had to contend with negative comments from BT Alex.Brown, falling 7.5p to 451p.

LucasVarity lost 9p to 279.75p as Federal-Mogul, the US group, decided not to pay the ransom a counter to TRW's offer would require.

The Asda/Safeway merger rumours evaporated, leaving Safeway 9.25p lower at 289.25p although Asda firmed 1.75p to 156.5p.

Powderject Pharmaceuticals was another of the day's outstanding performers. The shares soared a remarkable 23 per cent to 870p following a deal with a Swiss group, Ares-Serono. PP has clinched a pounds 100m agreement to develop five needle-free injection systems. The deal sent analysts scurrying for their calculators and suggestions of a 1,100p target went the rounds. The group is taking advantage of its Swiss link by raising pounds 52m by offering shares at 670p.

Holiday groups responded to Airtours' encouraging summer bookings. Airtours gained 27p to 441p and Thomson Travel, the subject of takeover rumours last week, rose 8p to 165p. House builders pushed ahead, encouraged by Bank of England indications of yet lower interest rates. Barratt Developments ended 8p higher at 268.5p and Berkeley 33.5p to 565p.

Allday, the convenience stores chain that has had a difficult time, jumped 16.5p to 88.5p. Trading was heavy, sparking speculation that the group, clearly vulnerable to a bid, was attracting predatory attention. The shares were 621.5p last summer as the convenience concept caught the imagination of the market. One unlikely suggestion was that struggling cash-and-carry chain Booker could strike a deal with Allday. Booker, where vague rumours of a bid from the US retailing giant Wal-Mart have circulated, firmed 3p to 70.5p. It, too, has fallen from lofty heights; fours years ago the shares were riding at 460p.

Storehouse, the Mothercare chain where bid talk has been heard, rose 6p to 135.5p in brisk trading; BICC, the cables and construction group that has attracted speculative interest, jumped 4.5p to 85.5p. Another to get the rumoured bid treatment was McBride, which makes own label detergents. It jumped 11p to 102.5p

Tandem, the subject of a proposed revamp, trundled along at 2.75p, against 9.75p last spring. The cycle group had hoped to sell its Falcon business but talks have broken down. The failure to unload Falcon means Tandem's hopes of becoming a horse-racing business have had to be abandoned.

Water Hall, the waste management group, fell 1p to 16.5p after announcing a pounds 4m placing at 14.5p a share.

Eclipse Blinds rose a further 7p to 94.5p on the bid approach and Diacom jumped 51.5p to 227.5p after signing an alliance with the US GTR group to provide Internet security for European business users.

SEAQ VOLUME: 1.2bn

SEAQ TRADES: 73,591

GILT INDEX: 115.60 -0.11

CALLUNA, the electronics group famed for its computer security system, firmed 2.75p to 29.75p. The arrival of an Austrian group on the share register prompted the excitement. Volksbanken Kapitalanlageges has built a 6.29 per cent shareholding.

Loss-making Calluna has had an eventful market ride. The shares have brushed 40p in the past year and three years ago surged to 95.75p. Their low point is 8.5p, touched last year.

THE DEVELOPMENT of Vital Group into a wide- ranging financial operation continues with Swedish businessman Dag Palmer lifting his stake to 10.3 per cent.

Chief executive Martin Savage, with 36.2 per cent, plans to create a fund management and stockbroking group. The Ofex traded company has had a number of incarnations; it was called Bearbull Active Strategy Investment before switching to Vital. The shares are currently 4.5p.

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