Market report: Generators run out of steam on rumours of Cazenove action

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The Independent Online
Cazenove, the up-market stockbroker, appeared to clip the wings of high-flying generators, National Power and PowerGen.

The electricity duo has enjoyed a remarkable run and the shares were riding at around their all-time high before the stock market got wind of the bearish Cazenove interest which sent NP 19.5p lower to 665p and PG 21.5p to 862p.

The secretive stockbroker is renown for playing its investment cards close to its chest. So when rumours of Cazenove action circulated there was invariably a degree of uncertainty about their accuracy. But after the heady progress of the generators they were clearly vulnerable to any suggested caution.

The generators retreat occurred as other blue chips staged an afternoon rally with Footsie ending 55.8 points higher at 5,237.2. New York was again ruffled by the controversy over the Clinton presidency.

The Cazenove reticence spread to other utilities with Severn Trent off 33p to 938p and Thames Water 18.5p to 877p.

Energy glowed amid the utility gloom, gaining 43p to 727p. The Eastern Electricity group confirmed US PacifiCorp was not the only hovering bidder. PacifiCorp's offer was cleared by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission last month. Talks with the US group continue but there are indications other transatlantic parties have joined the fray. The English generators, NP and PG, are also seen as likely predators. They have improved their relationships with Westminster and the impression prevails the present Government is more receptive to the idea of integrated power companies than its predecessor.

BT was back in demand, shrugging off suggestions investors banking on a Microsoft deal had got their wires crossed. The shares, in busy trading, recovered an early 7p fall to end 8p higher at 577p.

British Airways rose 19.5p to 519p as optimism grew its American Airlines deal will be approved and Associated British Foods gained 19.5p to 600p on its failure to win the up-for-sale Dalgety ingredients business. Dalgety gained 8.5p to 286.5p. Rank, the leisure group, remained in the dumps, losing 10.25p to 297p.

Arcadia and Debenhams, replacing Burton, had mixed fortunes. After initial uncertainty Arcadia ended 26.5p higher at 429.5p but Debenhams had to settle for 488,5p against the equivalent of 403p.

Marks & Spencer, with a trading statement tomorrow, rose 3p to 570p, with Henderson Crosthwaite positive. Northern Foods, confirming its milk demerger, fell 4p to 184p.

Electrocomponents, a distributor of industrial components, lost 7.5p to 472.5p on fears profits downgrading will appear today.

Engineer Ransomes was up 12.5p to 58.5p as the US Textron offer went through. Other takeover action included bid talks at GGT, the advertising group. The shares bounded 44.5p to 177p as the company said negotiations were under way and the market elected Omnicom or WPP and possible bidders. Last week GGT issued a profits warning. WPP fell 4p to 256p after Panmure Gordon placed a line at 255p.

Laura Ashley continued to recover, up 5.5p to 39.5p as hopes of a trading revival mingled with takeover speculation, and Budgens, the grocery chain, put on 7p to 73.5p on bid talk.

Baldwin, the leisure group, rose 8p to 123p following suggestions Singapore billionaire Ong Beng Seng will sell his 29.4 per cent stake, clearing the way for a bidder.

The Singapore tycoon has embarked on a sale programme. He wants to unload his 4 per cent holding in Virgin Entertainment and, with Baldwin's shares underperforming, there is an obvious suspicion he would like to extricate himself from the continental camping to restaurants group.

Ulster Television softened to 241.5p as US group Canwest International lifted its shareholder to 12.14 per cent.

Delyn, the property group, shaded to 115p; 23.98 per cent shareholder, Apollo Sales & Marketing, has moved to oust chairman Paul Norman.

Aukett Associates, the design group, improved 1.25p to 6.75p after Imagina Management, which has a joint venture with Aukett in Madrid, emerged as a 3 per cent shareholder, picking up stock at 6.25p.

John David Sports, down from 366.5p in the past year, hardened 2.5p to 117.5p; three directors picked up 135,000 shares.

Proteus International, the healthcare group, rose 1.5p to 85p with J Sainsbury saying it was in talks over BSE test kits.