Market Report: BTR suffers after analysts' visit backfires

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The Independent Online
BTR, the old style conglomerate which decided it had to become much more focused to prosper, was limping along at its lowest for 14 years because of an analysts' visit that misfired.

This week analysts were shown its US operations and held meetings with the group's executives.

It seems the briefings went well and most were impressed with the operations they examined.

But during the meetings it became increasingly apparent that BTR faces a daunting task.

Worries about the markets where the engineering group operates resurfaced. It is exposed to South America, particularly Brazil, and of course Asia. The slowdown facing the US car industry could also be a worry.

Since profits hit pounds 1.5bn in 1995 BTR has had an increasingly difficult time. This year around pounds 645m is the expectation.

Its shares peaked at 415p five years ago. They gave up 2p yesterday to 95p in often brisk trading.

BTR's discomfort was in sharp contrast to most Footsie constituents. Footsie was at one time riding 145 points higher; it closed up 111.3 at 5,717.5. It was the first time the index has closed above 5,700 for 14 weeks. When the bear market was at its worst last month it was down to 4,599.2.

Footsie has scored century gains in the past two days and this week has advanced more than 250.

Even the mid and small cap shares responded to the latest run, although the two-day surge has been mainly a blue-chip display.

Financials were again to the fore in the latest advance. The scent of lower interest rates is wafting around the stock market and there remains a strong conviction that corporate action is on the horizon.

National Westminster Bank, up 64p at 1,096p, and Royal Bank of Scotland, 51p to 890p, led the banking charge.

EMI, the showbiz group, topped the Footsie leader board. Ahead of next week's interim figures, the shares jumped 56.5p to 392p. Around pounds 55m is expected compared with pounds 75.6m last time.

But EMI is an old takeover favourite. At one time it was one of the hottest bid prospects in Footsie, with Disney and Seagram, the Canadian group, among a host of companies said to be keen on acquiring the group. The action failed to materialise and the shares tumbled from the equivalent of a 738p peak.

Latest rumour was that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation was stake-building and planning to strike on Monday. Trading was heavy, suggesting the rumour was something more than a late Friday afternoon ramp.

P&O, the shipping group, continued to respond to the better-than-expected performance of its PO Nedlloyd container shipping associate, rising 28.5p to 698p.

Reckitt & Colman was another to miss the fun. It fell 30p to 860p. The shares are suffering from a recent profits warnings. They were 1,300p in the spring.

Suggestions that Imperial Chemical Industries was thinking of floating off its paint division left the shares 5p lower at 545p.

Iceland, the frozen food retailer, jumped 23p to 241.5p after top management completed a round of investment meetings. Warburg Dillon Read was said to be positive on the shares.

Coats Viyella, the engineering and textile group, had another poor session, dropping 2p to 25.5p. It seems the already hard-pressed group is shipping further grief from the problems at Marks & Spencer and its cutbacks.

Coats, 115p at the start of this year, is a major M&S supplier. The group had planned to split its textile and engineering operations into two stand- alone companies, but the demerger plan seems to have been cast to one side.

The telephone was ringing again for Energis, the fledgling telecom group. The shares were lifted 152.5p to 1,127.5p in busy trading. It is thought to have held investment meetings in the US and there was evidence of transatlantic buying. Briefings are due to be held in Europe next week.

Danka Business Systems remained in the doldrums, crashing a further 9.5p to 28.5p. And Dialog Corporation, the on-line information service, weakened further to 83p.

Griffin Mining held at 19p. The shares have climbed from 9.5p in the past few weeks on suggestions that the company has been granted some intriguing mining concessions in China.

Takeover rumours returned to swirl around the struggling Scotch whisky distiller Burn Stewart, up 3p at 19.5p, and Pace Micro Technologies improved 14p to 83p as profit forecasts were lifted.

Dagenham Motors was driven lower as the expected takeover bid failed to materialise. The shares reversed 13p to 164.5p. The new joint venture created by the Ford Motor giant and Jardine Matheson is known to be eyeing Dagenham and it was widely assumed it would mount a bid today for what is one of the most important Ford dealers.

Fibernet, where hopes of bid action hover, rose 30p to 336.5p after results showing a pounds 4.8m loss against a pounds 487,000 loss.

SEAQ VOLUME: 926.9 million

SEAQ TRADES: 78,195

GILTS INDEX: n/a

MEMORY CORPORATION eased to 24p. The shares are moving to the Easdaq market, which hopes to be a European version of Nasdaq, and the Aim listing is expected to disappear in January. The computer group has had an exhilarating but ultimately disastrous time on Aim. In 1995 the shares topped 500p but enthusiasm waned and they were at one time down to 15p. Earlier this year the price was 36.5p.

ENERGY CAPITAL Investments, a company with most of its interests in oil and gas exploration, jumped 14p to 75p. It plans to sell all its assets which some estimate could amount to 130p a share. Initial intention is to indulge in a single deal but if such a course proves too difficult it will realise on a piecemeal basis. The shares were 105p earlier this year; their top price was 139.5p in 1996.

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