Market Report: Figures from Kingfisher expected to disappoint

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The Independent Online
KINGFISHER, the B&Q, Comet and Woolworth retailing group, seems set to disappoint the stock market when it releases interim profits today.

A see-saw session left the shares 2p higher at 490p as at least two securities houses made cautious noises.

Rumours of boardroom changes circulated. So did stories that B&Q had put as many as 60 of its smaller do-it-yourself sheds up for sale.

According to Tony Shiret, at Barclays de Zoete Wedd, profits will be flat. His calculations suggest they will emerge at pounds 88m, against pounds 82.9m, with Darty, the French electrical retailing offshoot, more than doubling its contribution but the British side performing weakly.

Over the year Darty's offering will become less impressive and Mr Shiret, who regards the shares as a sell, looks for a group performance of pounds 335m (against pounds 310.6m) and pounds 366m next year. He expects that downgradings will follow today's statement.

John Chaterway, at London Wall Equities, is also cautious. 'There is little reason to hold the shares,' he said.

Kingfisher, which could also feel the impact of the interest rate increase, is under the shadow of Home Depot, the US do-it-yourself group expected to barge into the British market.

The rest of the market was left in the slipstream of the interest rate increase. In early trading shares were marginally higher, but when it became apparent that base rate was going up the market collapsed with the FT-SE 100 index crashing 25.3 points.

A subsequent rally was only partly held and, with the futures market casting a spell over the proceedings, the index ended 10.5 lower at 3,128.8. Government stocks, after some hesitation, romped ahead, ending with gains of up to pounds 1.

Building and related issues were hit by the interest lift. The housebuilder Barratt Developments tumbled 14p to 197p and Beazer 6p to 139p. Tarmac lost 10p to 146.5p.

But the building contractor Donelon Tyson continued to edge forward, gaining 1p to 18p. The company plunged into the red last year, recording a pounds 2.6m deficit. Since then new managing and finance directors have arrived and the shares have moved ahead 6p in the past few weeks.

Rank Organisation, meeting analysts later this month, held at 415p and Chubb Security, the alarms and locks group, edged ahead 1p to 346p as it met analysts. The group has sold its French alarms operation.

Tadpole Technology, as stories about its big US contract gathered strength, managed a 6p gain to 406p. Magnum, offering uninterrupted power supplies, continued to attract attention in a tight market. The shares gained 6.5p to 65p. They were floated at 35p last month.

Shares buy-ins by PowerGen and Seeboard had little impact. PowerGen, picking up 2.5 million shares at 573p, slipped 2p to 569p. Seeboard, with 1 million shares at 434p in its corporate bag, lost 6p to 436p.

Forte, as it appeared to be on the brink of winning control of the Meridien hotel chain and increasing its power at the Savoy Hotel, fell 3p to 231p with the inevitable worries about cash calls surfacing.

Giles Shepard, who had fiercely resisted the so-called 'fortification' of the Savoy group, resigned as managing director, leaving the low-voting 'A' shares unchanged at 945p. The powerful 'B' shares crashed to pounds 55 from the pounds 100 they were last traded in May.

Tesco edged forward 0.5p to 241.5p as Henderson Crosthwaite suggested a switch out of J Sainsbury, off 3p at 441p.

The fashion group Country Casuals slumped 32p to 120p - it contributed the day's profit warning. Liberty, the Regent Street store, fell 33p to 355p after diving into the red at the halfway stage.

RJB Mining, in a catching-up move, gained 19p to 391p as the scramble to gather the remains of the old British Coal mining operation intensified.

Midland Assets, a little nursing homes group, reached a 21.5p peak. It confirmed market talk that it was involved in talks that could lead to a substantial acquisition. Midland expects to make a further announcement before the end of the month.

Barcom, the plant hire group that used to be called Venture Plant, had a lively session, gaining 6p to 33p.

More buying by the mini-conglomerate Suter of the Hartons plastics group left the shares little changed at 5.75p. Suter now has 15.6 per cent.

Macdonald Martin Distilleries, the Glenmorangie group, is turning in a heady show. The arrival as chairman of Geoffrey Madrell, chief executive of ProShare, the wider share ownership group, encouraged talk that MMD's two- tier voting structure will be abolished, leaving it open to a bid. The low-voting 'A' shares are up from 390p to 685p this year, the 'B' from 640p to 895p.

Copyright Promotions has had a subdued stock market life since it was floated by Mosaic Investments last month. The shares are 123p, a few coppers above the sale price. But the stockbroker Charles Stanley believes they are a buy, forecasting that profits of the character merchandising group will hit pounds 1.2m this year, up from pounds 1m. Mosaic retained a 30 per cent interest.