Market Report: BT's 'buried treasure' raises hopes

THE STOCK MARKET dialled into a story that BT is on the verge of clinching a major deal to develop its European interests. Details, it is thought, could emerge at an investment presentation scheduled for Friday.

BT's shares rose 6p to 659p, an unspectacular display considering blue chips enjoyed their best performance for more than six weeks.

Footsie, largely on the back of New York, rose 90.5 points to rest above 6,000 for the first time since mid-April. Supporting indices were in fine form, with the mid cap hitting a new peak.

BT's presentation will concentrate on its European ambitions. Many expect it to flesh out the talk with details of a strategic alliance, with either a Continental or even American group.

The market has been hoping for a BT initiative since its American adventure came to grief when it was outbid for MCI. Henderson Crosthwaite believes BT has "buried treasure" tucked away and the shares could hit 730p.

The composition of Footsie was also the subject of debate as the market deliberated the likely changes which will be decided tomorrow by the FTSE steering committee.

It could be quite a shake-up with three newcomers barging into the exclusive 100 strong club. Stagecoach, the bus and train group up 33.5p to 1,462.5p, looks a candidate; so does WPP, the advertising group which once teetered on the brink of disaster. It held at 423p.

Daily Mail & General Trust is another possibility. Its "A" shares rose 30p to 3,105p although the voting shares slipped 15p to 3,095p.

Next, up 13p to 575p, and Wolseley, off 7.5p at 405.5p, are in danger. Health group Nycomed Amersham, the other threatened with relegation, put on a spirited display in a late bid to survive.

The ordinary shares rose 69p to 2,059p and the non-voters led the Footsie leader board with a 130p jump to 2,030p. The group, indulging in a capital reconstruction which will give votes to all shares, was helped by bullish comments from SG Securities. Other investment houses, such as Merrill Lynch and Panmure Gordon, have made positive noises lately.

There was at one time a danger that Nycomed's big Norwegian shareholding would jeopardise its Footsie role but that danger has now been averted.

Diageo, the spirits giant, was in form, reflecting an investment presentation at its Miami Burger King headquarters. The Grand Metropolitan/Guinness group rose 30.5p to 756p. Merrill Lynch suggests Diageo, rumoured to be interested in buying the Bols Dutch liqueur group, should hit 810p a share.

Financials were back on form, responding to the latest US mega banking merger, the $34bn affair between Wells Fargo and Norwest Corporation. Royal Bank of Scotland jumped 62p to 1,127p as some pondered, once again, a deal with Halifax, up 31p to 888p.

The boardroom changes at Barclays were good enough for a 71p gain to 1,747p. The theory is the banking group is preparing for corporate action and Norwich Union, up 11.75p to 468.5p, could find itself on the receiving end of an unwanted bid.

HSBC managed an 8p gain to 1,606p. The shares failed to throw off the impact of profit downgradings as Schroders and PG took the axe to their estimates.

Regional breweries drew strength from the sudden takeover ferment, with Morland 12.5p higher at 470p and Joseph Holt improving 35p to 2,150p.

Young & Co's Brewery, the family-run Wandsworth group, responded to moves by financial group Guinness Peat to shake up its old fashioned capital structure. The "A" shares rose 30p to 675p and the non-voters 15p to 567.5p.

Vaux, the Sunderland brewer and hotelier which has received a bid approach, firmed 9.5p to 354.5p. Ushers of Trowbridge, another to admit take over interest, shaded to 126p.

Pilkington, the glass maker, fell 2p to 130.5p after Dresdner Kleinwort Benson produced sell advice.

Rank, the leisure group, was little changed at 361p ahead of an investment dinner at London's Savoy Hotel, hosted by Henderson Crosthwaite. Cadbury Schweppes, still seeing analysts, hardened 11.5p to 993p.

Alba, the television and video group, improved 21p to 216p. HSBC, following a 29 per cent profits advance, said buy, forecasting profits of pounds 14.2m this year.

BTG, the old British Technology Group, rose a further 22p to 777.5p. Investment presentations are due to start next week for the flotation of its Torotrak gearbox group.

Calluna fell 4.25p to 27.25p. Reports of problems over its Hardwall system did the damage. The shares have jumped on hopes of major contracts for the computer security system.

Carlisle rose 2p to 18p in brisk trading as investors anticipated the little property group was the vehicle for the return of Michael Ashcroft, a major 1980s player.

Trust Motor advanced 13.5p to 207p as Reg Vardy was linked to the group where a management buy-out has failed.

Minmet, on hopes of a Devon gold strike after last week's "encouraging" progress report, rallied 1.75p to 10.75p.

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