Market Report: Granada soars as brokers take a cheerful view

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The Independent Online
SHARES of the Granada leisure group starred in a dull, featureless stock market yesterday.

They climbed 12p to 258p in busy trading as at least two stockbrokers indulged in an increasingly rare exercise - increasing their profit forecasts.

Carr Kitcat & Aitken and Panmure Gordon were the bullish brokers. Carr left this year's forecast little changed at pounds 122m but lifted next year's pounds 5m to pounds 145m and PG moved this year's figure pounds 5m higher to pounds 117m and next year's from pounds 124m to pounds 137. They rate the shares a buy.

Granada's trading picture has improved dramatically as the group has responded to the attentions of Gerry Robinson, who became chief executive nearly a year ago. He was recruited from the Compass catering group.

Last year Granada's profits more than halved to pounds 56.9m. In 1989 they reached pounds 164.1m. Its shares peaked at 384p in 1989.

Jeffrey Harwood, at Carr, said: 'Next year Granada will be generating an awful lot of cash, something it should have been doing for years.'

The rest of the market seemed content to rest on its laurels after the heroics since last week's devaluation.

Shares had started strongly, spurred by futures activity, a UBS Phillips & Drew buy programme and hopes of a German interest rate cut.

But once UBS was satisfied and it became clear the Germans intended to stay with their current interest rates, shares drifted lower and the FT-SE share index ended 20.2 points down at 2,601. A weak pound added to the uncertainty towards the close.

Some hovering, seemingly unwanted, lines of stock caused much of the weakness. Cable and Wireless dipped 32p to 582p on talk of a large overhang.

BT, down 6p to 353.5p, was thought to have suffered from switching into Vodafone Group, up 7p at 335p.

BICC, the contracting and cable group, eased 7p to 278p as James Capel appeared to place 9.5 million shares at 279p.

Beers were again flat. After Thursday's 'Evel Knievel' Allied-Lyons escapade some more serious attention was given to the profits pressure the brewers are clearly experiencing.

Allied, strong since the devaluation decision because of its overseas spirits interests, fell 27p to 611p, even lower than Thursday's poorest point.

Bass slipped 15p to 565p and Whitbread 'A', with the added discomfort of UBS sell advice, 15p to 450p. Guinness suffered a 16p loss to 552p and Scottish & Newcastle 12p to 424p.

Other leisure shares felt the pinch. Forte, interim results next week, tumbled 11p to 140p. A figure of around pounds 30m against pounds 42m is expected. Ladbroke Group retreated 12p to 174p but pub owner Greenalls Group, which has attracted support from Kleinwort Benson, rose 9p to 394p.

Insurances made headway, spurred by the overnight performance of US insurance stocks. Transatlantic talk of buy recommendations and profit upgradings is in the air. It was enough to send Commerical Union romping ahead 16p to 535p and General Accident 12p to 521p.

William Baird, the engineering and textile group, attracted support following its takeover of the Berkertex bridal wear business, which was in receivership. The shares gained 16p to 227p.

Despite takeover suggestions Amber Day fell 3p to 32p.

Pentos, which has reappointed Clive Gregory as finance director, shaded 1p to 83p as Carr placed 500,000 shares at 82p. Blacks Leisure, the sports retailer, fell 11p to 35p.

Leigh Interests, the waste disposal group, slumped 51p to 175p following a bleak statement at the yearly meeting. Rival Shanks & McEwan dropped 25p to 175p in sympathy. HTV lost 14p to 27p on its interim results.

Hanson dipped 4.5p to 219p. Robert Hanson, son of the chairman and creator Lord Hanson, who became a director this week, declared he holds 3.75 million shares and options to acquire 100,000.

Some media shares drew support from the United Newspapers half year trading performance. Portsmouth & Sunderland rose 20p to 525p and Emap 9p to 287p. Pearson, however, gave up an early gain to close down 11p at 387p. United failed to hold its best level, ending 5p up at 430p.

Worth Investment Trust held at 16p as Scottish Value Trust continued to stakebuild. It now has just over 18.5 per cent of Worth's capital.

JMD Group, moving into video retailing, lost some of its exuberance, falling 0.75p to 3.5p.

Hampden Group, a do-it-yourself retailer where Ladbroke has approaching 30 per cent of the shares, fell 6p to 48p following improved interim figures but a cautious trading statement.

Shares were subdued. After a bright start, with the FT-SE share index up 36.1 points, the atmosphere turned cautious and the index ended 20.2 down at 2,601. The FT 30-share index lost 22.7 to 1,914. Turnover reached 693.3 million shares, with 29,449 bargains. Government stocks rallied at the close, cutting falls to about pounds 1/2.

Credit Lyonnais Laing remains bearish on Unigate, the food group. In an internal memo analyst Arabella Cecil has cut pounds 5m to pounds 92m from this year's forecast and pounds 8m to pounds 99m from next year's. She feels the 1993-94 forecast is 'at risk' from pressure on prices and competition from Northern Foods. CLL suggests a switch from Unigate, down 3p to 237p, to NF, up 4p to 283p.

Shares of Airbreak Leisure, the troubled holidays business, were suspended yesterday 'pending clarification of the company's financial position'. Before the trading halt the price crashed 7.5p to 3.5p as worries apparently surfaced that the deal with Champion Holdings, a Cyprus group, had run into difficulties. Champion could build a 47.07 per cent interest in Airbreak.