MARKET REPORT City chooses not to believe the hype from Reed

Reed International, the Anglo-Dutch publishing giant, managed to get the stock market into a rare old tizzy.

As news flashed around that an encouraging trading update was about to materialise the shares were pushed 37p higher to 1,188.5p.

But the words failed to live up to expectations.

Indeed, the market took the view Reed was, ever so discreetly, attempting to flag a profits warning. Such talk as "we are positioned strongly to take full advantage" of growth possibilities fell on deaf ears as the market concentrated on comments about sterling's strength and the likelihood current year's figures will not include any takeover benefits.

Not, perhaps, surprising Reed shares should take fright and end the session down 64p at 1,087.5p.

The Reed anxiety was echoed by some other media shares. Pearson, for example, fell 4p to 711.5p.

The rest of the market enjoyed an almost indifferent day, Footsie, at one time seemed intent on surging to new highs.

In morning trade it was up 30.8 points, indicating a record display could be on the cards. It was not to be. In the event the index gain was a rather unremarkable 6 points at 4,051.2 points, leaving the earlier 4,073.1 peak unchallenged.

Prudential Corporation remained a speculative counter. The group, up 9.5p to 500.5p, a peak, is seen as the central plank in the long rumoured changes in the financial services industry.

There have been long running rumours that Abbey National and the Pru plan a deal. Abbey shares fell 6.5p to 700p.

A number of other possibilities are exercising some of the more alert minds. There is a strong suspicion Commercial Union is in a predators sights. The shares gained 8p to 677.5p after at one time recording a 22.5p advance.

CU's strength occurs at the time the BAT Industries break-up stories are once again being given a whirl. BAT to bid for Imperial Tobacco and then to float its financial side is a thought which has for long occupied a number of the more astute market minds.

BAT, on an unofficial level, has tended to dismiss the bid stories. But like so many market rumours the BAT deal commands a certain amount of logicality. Hence the sneaking suspicion something is in the wind.

PowerGen, the generator, jumped 17.5p to 589p as it completed its 5 per cent buy back, through UBS and Kleinwort Benson. There were suggestions the deal was completed at 605p. No such price appeared on the dealing screens. But if PG did pay such a top heavy price for its own shares then it could only support the arguments that a special dividend is far more even handed. After all, the best PG's price of the day was 589p, thereby leaving private shareholders, unlikely to be privy to the share buy-back, once again out in the cold. National Power, which produced a 100p special dividend for all shareholders, rose 11.5p to 458.5p.

British Gas was, for once, in control. It shares flared 3.5p to 217,5p after it confirmed its proposed demerger and a deal over its take and pay North Sea contracts.

BTR fell a further 1p to 230.5p as the market fretted about the non-appearance of the expected trading statement. Latest word from the rumour mill is that the anxiously awaited statement could appear today.

Forward Technology, an electronics group, slumped 11.5p to 27.5p following a profits warning but Gradus, a building materials group, jumped 34p to 159.5p on the pounds 32.9m bid from the Headlam group.

JN Nicholls, the soft drink group, was another indulging in a share buy- back.

It picked up 300,000 of its shares at 182p, leaving the price just 1p lower at 182.54p.

Betacom, the electrical group where Alan Sugar has taken over as chairman, jumped 5.5p to 28.5p. There are suggestions the Tottenham Hotspur chief intends to use Betacom as his main electronics vehicle with his long established first love, Amstrad, reduced to a supporting roll.

Meanwhile Manchester Utd hit a peak of 583.5p following the European Cup victory. Merrilll Lynch, the company's stockbroker, quickly but modestly upgraded this year's forecast to pounds 24m but should the Euro victory be completed it is, it said, a question of "ooh, la Cantona".

Ladbroke, the betting and hotels group, continued its merry gallop as its encouraging US casino prospects attracted more support, lifting the shares 7p to 214p in busy trading.

Taking Stock

rIt looks as though Bruntcliffe Aggregates could attract a bid from Bardon, itself a long-running takeover candidate. Bardon has taken the trouble to take an option on a 14.99 per cent Bruntcliffe equity stake. It has also acquired an option on convertible stock which could lift its interest to 20 per cent. The options expires early next year.

Bruntcliffe has for long been in dispute with former directors and it would appear they have provided the Bardon options. Bruntcliffe shares edged ahead 1p to 26.5p.

rCadcentre enjoyed a spectacular debut. Placed at 200p the shares closed at 240.5p. The company makes system to aid the 3D design of process and power plants. It placed 38.2 per cent of its capital, raising pounds 7.2m.

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