MARKET REPORT: East Midlands charges ahead on new takeover hopes

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The Independent Online
Smoke signals suggesting a dawn raid on Imperial Tobacco and intense take over speculation swirling around East Midlands Electricity helped the stock market get over the disappointment of the Bank of England's unyielding stance on interest rates and Footsie ended with a 14.6-point gain to 3,935.7.

President Clinton's landslide victory seemed to give the market a feeling for a US bid and East Midlands shares surged 70p to 607.5p.

After the market closed Dominion Resources, which owns Virginia Electric and Power, admitted it was interested and was thinking in terms of a 608p- a-share offer.

Headed by Nigel Rudd, East Midlands has for long been the hot utility stock, regarded as the certain takeover victim among the rapidly dwindling band of electricity companies. The offer for Northern Electric dampened enthusiasm but speculation quickly returned to haunt the company.

The latest run, achieved on the back of some determined buying, started around lunch time when rumours of a 700p-a-share-offer started to swirl around.

Imps was lifted 20.5p to 373.5p with an SBC Warburg buy suggestion said to be responsible. But then the market got hold of the dawn raid theory.

Imps has been in almost relentless decline since hitting a 417p peak shortly after its return to market last month. Its slide could tempt a predator, with BAT Industries, the subject of "avoid" advice from Warburg, the most likely candidate. BAT fell 2p to 415p.

The bid smoke signals could be encouraged by the growing pressure on BAT to split its operations into two stand-alone companies, financial services and tobacco. Buying Imps would provide it with a strong domestic base, an ideal bolt-on to its international tobacco interests.

A foreign raid on Imps, which many believe is vulnerable to a strike now it is no longer part of Hanson, is another possibility.

Equities started the session in fine form on the back of the Clinton victory. Then came the Bank of England's call for more interest rate increases and Footsie fell into negative territory before its late run, encouraged by a strong New York display.

Other electricities brightened up with London 12p higher at 617.5p; Southern 21.5p at 669p and Yorkshire 15.5p at 754p.

National Power had another strong day up 15.5p to 433p; PowerGen rose 7.5p to 319p.

The Clinton connection was even, indirectly, good for drug shares. The President's controversial healthcare reforms are likely to be blocked by the Republican-dominated Congress which should remove pressure for lower drug prices. Glaxo Wellcome led the way, up 16.5p to 977.5p.

BT continued to feel uncomfortable pressure over its MCI deal with its victory in winning a pounds 1bn contract to privatise the Ministry of Defence communications system having little impact. The shares fell 3.5p to 366.5p. Racal Electronics, expected to win the contract, lost 9p to 266.5p.

But British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce climbed as Airbus Industrie won what is the world's largest civil aviation order. BAe, up 13p at 1,147p, has 20 per cent of Airbus, and Rolls-Royce, 6p higher at 254p, will provide engines.

Cookson, the industrial materials group, fell 2p to 215p as Cazenove placed around 8 million shares. Granada was firm at 880.5p on Lehman Brothers support and Storehouse rose 4p to 287p with Robert Fleming Securities said to be on the buy tack. Whitbread fell 7.5p to 729p on advise to switch into Scottish & Newcastle, little changed at 648p.

Airtours continued to reach new heights, closing with an 11p gain to 713p on US expansion plans. Yorkshire Food fell 14p to 28.5p (after 22.5p) following a warning of losses. David Morgan has resigned as finance director and Dole Food, a US group, suffered the misfortune of buying 1.25 million shares on Monday. Dole now has a 9.66 per cent stake.

Kwik Save, figures today, edged ahead 4.5p to 304p. PDFM added to its holding and now has 18.03 per cent. With Keswick family interests nudging 30 per cent the company could be vulnerable if, as rumoured, Aldi, the German group, strikes.

BTP, the speciality chemical group, fell 13.5p to 314p. The shares touched a 334p high recently. They have fallen on worries about the interim profits due soon.

Lanica Trust, the Andrew Regan vehicle, jumped 52.5p to 270p on speculation about a big acquisition.The shares were 56p at the start of the year.


r The two-way debate over Verity, which has produced a revolutionary new sound system, remains at a high volume. Stockbroker Killik is the latest to offer a contribution. After meeting the company it believes Verity is set for "a bright long term future". But it says the shares are only for the brave investor, prepared to accept the risks involved. The shares touched 42.5p recently, then fell to 32.25p. They rose 1.5p to 36p on the Killik comment.

o Tullow Oil fell 2p to 75p as the tension in Pakistan added to the uncertainty created by disappointing drilling reports. There is talk the company is looking vulnerable to a bid.

r Britt Allcroft, the Thomas the Tank Engine company, steamed to market, closing at 159.5p from its 130p placing.