Market Report: European worries mean giants miss the party

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The Independent Online
WITH seeming relentless determination, shares stretched to another new peak. But European influences ensured that two blue chips missed the fun.

British Steel and Imperial Chemical Industries were the casualties.

In busy trading BS tumbled 7.5p to 125.5p, reflecting acute disappointment over the EU decision to restructure its demoralised steel industry by offering state handouts to Germany, Italy, Spain and Portgual. About pounds 5.3bn is involved.

There had been hopes that European production would be cut. BS described the EU pact, which must prolong over-production, as a 'compromise driven by political expedience'.

ICI, at one time 33.5p down, ended 14.5p off at 753.5p. The failure of a grand European plan to restructure part of the chemical industry did the damage.

But the problems at BS and ICI were comfortably absorbed by the rest of a supremely confident stock market.

The FT-SE 100 index romped ahead 27.8 points to a 3,364.9 peak. It has already underlined the traditional strength of the Christmas account by climbing more than 100 points in six trading days.

The supporting FT-SE 250 index has been even more impressive. It achieved its seventh consecutive peak, up 18.7 at 3,710.4.

Once again the futures market had a dramatic influence. Strong buying of the March 1994 option kept trading on the boil. There were signs of overseas interest and the support for second-line shares, which attracted the larger slice of the turnover action, was seen as indicating the continuing presence of private investors.

The now regular influences of falling interest rates, low inflation and economic recovery buoyed sentiment.

And reports that Christmas sales are taking off had a sharp impact on some retailers.

Signet, the old Ratners jewellery chain, continued its recovery. The shares rose 4.25p to 24.5p as the market relegated earlier talk of disappointing festive trading.

But action in the Signet preference shares was a significant factor. The South African duo, Julian Treger and Brian Myerson, acquired 150,000 shares, lifting their stake to 9.73 per cent.

Goldman Sachs, the US investment house, seems less convinced about the merits of Signet. It trimmed its preference holding to 26.69 per cent.

Waters continued their merry surge. Interest rate considerations mingled with the Government's decision to reduce sewerage spending. Thames Water splashed 10p higher to 596p and Anglian gained 11p to 606p.

British Aerospace, in the doldrums last week, recovered 14p to 401p with, it is thought, SG Warburg leading the recovery. But Rolls-Royce remained in the slipstream of cautious comment, thought to be from Barclays de Zoete Wedd, falling 4.5p to 166.5p.

Last week's investment presentations continued to inspire British Petroleum, up 9p to 357p. The shares have risen 42p since news of the presentations started to circulate.

Manders jumped 18p to 368p. It has sold its paints operation to Total, the French group, for pounds 55m. Last week it splashed out pounds 26.65m for the Croda International inks business.

But the market is still awaiting what is regarded as the most significant deal. Manders has put its shopping complex at Wolverhampton on the market and there is talk of offers being received at around pounds 85m against a book value of pounds 57.5m.

Tiphook, the troubled container leasing group, fell 8p to 55p on fears that it would be forced to cut the sale price of its main leasing business.

It had agreed an pounds 830m deal with Transamerica of the US, but following due diligence the US group is expected to offer a lower amount, although Tiphook is still hoping for more than pounds 700m.

HunterPrint, weak on Friday, recovered 6p to 25p. In what appeared to be a forced sale, just over 100,000 shares were unloaded at 15p and 17p. Rodime, a play on successful legislation, rose 2.75p to 20.5p.

Kells Minerals was suspended at 21p. It is paying pounds 5.5m in shares for Wold Fluids. The vendors, John and Geraldine Marett, will end up in control of the tiny Irish explorer.

Pantheon International, an obscure investment trust once called GT Venture, rose 11p to 202p. It is raising pounds 33.2m through an open offer at 200p. Some of the cash will be used to acquire venture capital investments with assets of pounds 11.3m.

Marine engineer Torday & Carlisle rose 2p to 23p. A company called R Dunn & Sons has emerged as an 8.2 per cent shareholder by acquiring 1.25 million shares.

Europe Energy Group's remarkable run continued, up 3.5p to 15.25p. A combination of takeover and exploration hopes lifted Ennex International another 1p to 15p in often busy trading.

The FT-SE 100 index jumped another 27.8 points to 3,364.9 and the FT-SE 250 added 18.7 to 3,710.4. Turnover was 748.9 million shares with 37,785 deals. The account ends on 31 December with settlement on 10 January. Government stocks were subdued.

The preference shares of Union International jumped 6p to 62p. Buying was prompted by reports of a reorganisation at the parent Vestey Group, which could lead to a flotation of the sprawling food, insurance and shipping empire. Buyers were hoping that the preference shares would be awarded preferential treatment in any share sale or could even be repaid.

North West Exploration is creating interest. There is talk that the old Ulster miner will become a vehicle for a build-up. A 29.1 per cent stake was sold last month by Dragon Oil, which is concentrating on Far Eastern operations. Identity of the buyer is shrouded in mystery but there is talk it is a former stockbroker. The shares, traded on the backwater 535 market, are around 4p.

(Graph omitted)

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