Market Report: Drug shares offer antidote to election boredom

Bored stiff by the election and uncertain about New York the stock market seems determined to get hooked on drugs.

Much of the recent action has been among the market's disparate collection of health shares with some turning in highly volatile performances.

At first the bio-babes attracted the action. In the past few days the big players, particularly SmithKline Beecham, have captured the market's imagination.

Reawakened US interest is thought to be the SB spur. The shares rose 22.5p to 915.5p in often brisk trading; they were 867.5p a week ago.

Zeneca was another in demand, up 37p at 1,804.5p, and Glaxo Wellcome threw off its US legal setback with a modest 7.5p gain to 1,088.5p.

Shield Diagnostic, which prompted the current stampede with encouraging trials for its heart disease detection system, had a roller-coaster session with a 32.5p gain surrendered into a 7.5p loss at 662.5p.

The group has replaced stockbroker Greig Middleton with UBS and should benefit from the clearance of a stock overhang.

Apax Ventures, a venture capitalist and one of Shield's early backers, has been dripping shares into the market but now appears to have sold much of its remaining stake. Last week it had approaching 1.5 million shares (7.7 per cent).

A 1.2 million deal at 640p was almost certainly an Apax sale although it is not clear where the shares ended up. At one time Apax had 19.1 per cent of Shield which touched 805p earlier this year.

One pharmaceutical share which has conspicuously missed the drugs party is ML Laboratories. It fell 2.5p to 187.5p, a 12-month low. In 1995 the shares touched 468.5p. Shortly afterwards chairman Kevin Leech and related interests sold 13.75 million shares for pounds 55m. He still has more than 50 per cent.

The ML fall from grace is even more surprising as it has occurred as the company moved into the black - an exceedingly rare event for a fledgling drugs group. Its pounds 5.45m profit should, if stockbroker Panmure Gordon has got its sums right, be followed by pounds 12m this year and more than pounds 100m at the turn of the century.

In lacklustre trading Footsie managed a 23-points gain to 4,292.3 after briefly going through 4,300. Allied Domecq was a major blue chip casualty. Evidence its Teacher's Scotch whisky, once the second-best selling brand in the country, had suffered a sobering 26 per cent sales decline left the shares nursing a 6.5p hangover at 437.5p.

Laura Ashley, the clothing and home furnishings retailer, was at one time up 16.5p as determined buying was evident for the second day running. The price closed 5p higher at 149.5p. Year's figures are due later this month.

HTV was another in demand. In brisk trading the shares were switched on 8.5p to 302.5p. In the past few weeks they have edged away from a 280.5p low. United News & Media has 29.9 per cent of the Welsh broadcaster.

Another frisson of excitement went through the insurance broking sector as David Herro, the Chicago fund manager who achieved a sort of fleeting fame at the old Saatchi & Saatchi, lifted his Oakmark International's stake in Sedgwick to just above 3 per cent.

Sedgwick edged forward 1.5p to 126p and Willis Corroon, regarded as its most likely partner, stirred 1.5p to 156.5p.

Mr Herro achieved prominence here when his actions prompted the departure of the Saatchi brothers from the advertising group they founded. Since renamed Cordiant the advertising business has struggled and its shares are below the level touched earlier in this decade.

Rolls-Royce, finally settling the sale of its Parsons operation to Siemens of Germany for pounds 30m, gained 2p to 244p.

Antonov, developing a revolutionary gearbox, motored 13p to 116.5p and was then suspended. The company hinted a deal was near. On Ofex Conroy Diamonds & Gold opened at 55p.

Thomas Jourdan, the mini-conglomerate which trebled profits to pounds 861,000, rose 7p to 68.5p. Former Suter chief, David Abell, is involved in a shareholder revolt.

What appeared to be coded profits caution put the skids under Henlys, the buses and coach maker. The shares fell 27.5p to 479p after the group talked about the coach and bus division's profits being "weighted towards the second half". The garage side was performing up to expectations.

Dana Petroleum gushed 3.5p higher to 26p on talk of an Enterprise Oil strike.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones