Market Report: Forte steps up chase for French hotels group

FORTE, the hotel group expected to produce disappointing results on Thursday, is thought to have intensified its efforts to acquire Meridien, the upmarket hotel group being sold by its controlling shareholder, Air France.

It is believed to have increased its bid sharply to around pounds 220m, comfortably topping the known offer from the entrenched favourite, the Accor holiday and hotel group.

But Accor, which has flavoured its bid with promises of holiday deals following a US link-up, remains the favourite to win the battle if only because of the nationalistic attitude of the French.

Forte's desire to absorb a luxury hotel group was highlighted by its determined, but ultimately unsuccessful, campaign to win Ciga, the debt-heavy Italian group created by the Aga Khan.

Rocco Forte, the group's chairman, had teamed with the international investor George Soros to bid for Ciga. In the event they found a late offer from the US Sheraton hotel chain too rich to accommodate. There has as yet been no suggestion of a Soros involvement in the Forte move to capture Meridien, which is 57 per cent owned by Air France.

Yesterday was believed to be the last day for Meridien. According to reports from Paris, Forte is regarded as the up bidder followed by Accor. A German group, Kempinski, is also in the running.

The pursuit of Ciga and now Meridien can be seen in relation to Forte's attempts to increase its involvement in the Savoy Hotel group, where it has a majority shareholding but fewer than half the votes.

Rumours have swirled that Mr Forte has attempted to increase his boardroom strength and wants to pump Forte's upmarket hotels into the Savoy to give him voting control.

If he should fail to win Meridien, talk in the industry is that he will turn its attention to Four Seasons, a luxury Canadian group thought to be receptive to a bid.

On Thursday Forte profits are expected to be about pounds 90m. In 1990 it produced pounds 291m. The group has attempted to counter deteriorating hotel trading by selling a number of operations, including Alpha Airports, an in-flight and airport caterer, and Gardner Merchant, an industrial catering business.

Mr Forte has made it clear the new-look group will concentrate on hotels and motorway catering. Its shares, weak lately, were little changed at 236p.

The rest of the stock market started the new account in ebullient form with the FT-SE 100 index up 28.6 to 3,149.4. Dividend payments stripped 5.4 from the calculation.

An upbeat review of economic prospects, encouraging Whitehall lending figures and a feeling that the market is settling down after recent volatility combined to produce a much more enthusiastic atmosphere, although trading volume offered no indication of any serious resumption of buying demand from institutions and private investors.

Interest rate hopes also resurfaced ahead of the Bundesbank meeting on Thursday. Any German reduction would reawaken hopes of a British cut. Government stocks joined in, scoring gains of up to pounds 1.

Talk of cheaper money was good for interest rate-sensitive stocks such as properties. But the bricks and mortar contingent was also helped by bullish comments from a number of quarters, including Lloyds Bank and S G Warburg. And Goldman Sachs got in on the act by pushing Land Securities, up 22p at 657p.

Builders, breweries and retailers were others to enjoy the interest rate revival.

Hogg, the insurance broker, put on another 4p to 215p as it became known that funds associated with the HSBC banking group had 1.26 per cent of the capital.

It was the creation of a 6 per cent stake by an HSBC insurance arm which provoked the share excitement, prompting Hogg to reveal that it has received approaches, one from the HSBC group.

Grand Metropolitan, helped by NatWest Securities' support and continuing chatter of a break-up of its controversial Inntrepreneur pubs estate, advanced 11p to 481p. Whitbread continued to benefit from Kleinwort Benson support, up 16p to 539p.

Newcomer St James Beach Hotel made an impressive start, reaching 133p from a 120p launch.

The absorption of a persistent seller left Cadbury Schweppes 3p higher at 480p and Reuters, ahead of today's meeting, rose 42p to 1,969p.

Beazer, one of the crop of new issue flops, managed to top its 165p flotation price. It scored from the much more favourable atmosphere surrounding builders and some determined support from Smith New Court.

Brown & Jackson, the Poundstretcher retail chain being rescued by the Weisfeld family, was the day's most actively traded and best-performing share. Seaq put volume at 37 million and the price rose 1.5p to 4.5p.

Owen & Robinson, the revamped jewellery retailer that has struggled back into the black, rose 1p to 31p. Talk persists that a well-known retailer is negotiating to buy a stake. One suggestion is that Philip Green, former chief of Amber Day (now WEW), would take a 15.8 per cent interest. But the board is thought to be negotiating with another, as yet unidentified, party.

Regent Corporation, a revitalised builder which emerged as one of the top performing shares of last year, is already bidding for a top place this year. The shares rose 3p to 37.5p as the market scented that another deal would be announced soon. Once called Waverley Cameron and then Nouvelle, the company has already acquired a number of small builders.

The FT-SE 100 index opened the account with a 28.6-point gain to 3,149.4; the FT-SE 250 index rose 24 to 3,779.5. Turnover was 602.3 million shares with 27,695 bargains. The account ends on 22 April with settlement on 3 May.

(Graph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peopleJonathan Ross has got a left-field suggestion to replace Clarkson
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
Sport
footballDoes Hodgson's England team have an identity yet?
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss