Market Report: Guinness alert takes the froth off drinks sector

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The Independent Online
LEADING drinks companies were rocked yesterday by a cautious statement on prospects for 1993 by Tony Greener, the chairman-elect of Guinness.

Some analysts said they might have to cut profit projections for the company for 1992/3 from pounds 1.04bn to less than pounds 1bn.

Guinness quickly plunged by 23p to 522p, dragged Allied-Lyons down by 15p to 628p, and turned a one-time 10p gain in Grand Metropolitan to a 12p fall to 423p.

Those performances alone wiped 5.4 points off the FT- SE 100 index, which closed 19.1 off at 2,750.7 on a day overcast by fading hopes of another interest rate cut before Christmas.

Guinness expects next year to be more testing than 1992, with the world economic outlook remaining bleak. 'Based on this premise we are not waiting for recovery,' said Mr Greener, the chief executive who will also assume the chair from Sir Anthony Tennant in the new year.

He added that the company would stick firmly with its core businesses of spirits and brewing. 'The emphasis will be on brand- building and market development.'

Guinness's growth in the 1990s, he said, would slow as world economic growth slowed and lower inflation made it harder to push through price rises.

While the company was reiterating many points, the news hit some raw nerves among dealers already concerned about the important Christmas season for the drinks sector.

Volume trading in the drinks sector was brisk. Some 5.5 million Guinness shares were traded, 7.5 million in Grand Met, and 3.2 million in Allied- Lyons.

The fall in Grand Met also came on a day that Sir Allen Sheppard, chairman and chief executive, increased his beneficial holding to 390,000 shares by exercising 137,000 options at 270p each.

Overall, market trading was healthy, with more than 660 million shares going through the books. Much of the action was generated by results from companies, both small and large.

Greenalls, the pub operator, found favour with slightly better- than-expected full-year figures and hit 359p at one stage, before being sucked into the market's slipstream and closing just 2p better at 356p.

Similarly Blick, which touched 440p, finished 15p higher at 430p on a 36 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 8.6m for the year to end-September. The City is looking for profits close to pounds 10m for the current year.

That would imply 10 per cent growth in earnings, which rose from 21.6p to 26p per share in 1991/2. Blick, supplier of clocking-in equipment and radio pagers, sits on a pounds 7.3m cash pile and is keen to make acquisitions.

Titon Holdings, maker of window fittings, was another tiddler that found admirers, after reporting a 28 per cent profits rise to pounds 1.9m. The shares, tucked away in the dark regions of the USM, climbed 11p to 145p.

Tadpole Technology, one of this week's newcomers, continued to leap and bound all the way to 135p, up 22p on the day and more than double the 65p placing price. Sage Group's recent run was also sustained, with a 19p advance to 474p.

In the bigger league, NFC received a drubbing, losing 18p to 266p. As usual the annual results caused no surprises, except that analysts reacted unfavourably to the large proportion of earnings coming from pension credits.

British Land retreated 12p to 170p ahead of today's interims. There was talk that the company could be about to tackle its high debts through a share issue.

It also has a 10 per cent exposure to Isosceles, which yesterday confirmed it had been reviewing its trading strategy to determine the 'most appropriate way of positioning the group's portfolio of stores'.

Food retailers, generally, suffered from a bout of profit-taking. Asda gave up 3p to 52p, Albert Fisher shed 2.5p to 54p, Geest fell 9p to 302p, Sainsbury lost 13p to 529p, and Tesco dropped 7p to 250p.

In oils, Lasmo came under more pressure as Strauss Turnbull recommended selling down to 125p, partly because of the soft price for crude. The shares eased 3p to 151p, with nearly 5 million traded.

Speculation about changes to FT-SE 100 constituents came true. Royal Insurance, down 1p to 264p, and Standard Chartered, up 12p to 535p, replace BET, off 2p to 82p, and Rolls- Royce, 1p easier at 100p.

Newcomers to the FT-SE 250 include Taunton Cider, which firmed 1p to 192p and which is due to release results today, Anglian Group, up 2p to 230p, and Cray Electronic, unchanged at 94p. Out go Simon Engineering, down 6p to 96p, and Ellis & Everard, up 3p to 166p.

Volex, involved in electrical controls and communication systems, sprinted 33p to 395p. There was talk that an institutional client of Kleinwort Benson was looking to take a stake, being prepared to pitch right up to 400p per share. Volume figures were unavailable, but there was some evidence of success, with agency crosses struck at 400p showing up on Seaq.

There has been a respectable take-up of the novel Hoare Govett Smaller Companies Index Investment Trust. Applications have been received for 28.5 million of the maximum 50 million shares being offered at 100p each. The bulk was subscribed for by institutions, with public investors taking just 521,000 shares. Dealings are scheduled to start on Monday.