Market Report: Hammerson bid speculation boosts shares

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The Independent Online
THE HAMMERSON property group was the outstanding performer in a session overshadowed by speculation about the shape of today's Budget.

Talk of takeover action sent the powerful ordinary shares 21p higher to 387p. The more widely held 'A' restricted voting shares rose 26p to 361p.

The property group, Britain's third-largest, is no stranger to bid speculation. With Sydney Mason, chairman, and John Parry, managing director, having signalled their intention to retire, Hammerson is perceived to be vulnerable to a determined strike.

John Ritblat, at British Land, is widely suspected to be weighing up the chances of a successful bid. British Land shares rose 6p to 256p.

Hongkong Land, now deeply involved in Trafalgar House, is another that has looked at Hammerson. Chelsfield, the Elliott Bernerd property group which is on its way to market, could, some believe, attempt a reverse takeover. Even George Soros, the heavily rich international investor, was pulled into the speculation.

But there is also talk that well- known property men are about to be drafted into Hammerson. They will replace Messrs Mason and Parry when they leave in the next year or so.

Despite recent strength Hammerson shares are below last year's peak and a far cry from the heady levels reached in 1988 when Rodamco, a Dutch group, mounted an unsuccessful pounds 1.3bn bid.

The Dutch offered 818p for each ordinary share and 780p for each 'A' share. There was talk at the time that Rodamco would have to offer about pounds 11 a share to sway the Hammerson board and is biggest shareholder, Standard Life Assurance.

In the event Standard came to Hammerson's rescue, buying shares at pounds 11, raising its stake to 31.44 per cent.

Standard could be ruing the day it supported Hammerson. Not only has the share price collapsed but its dividend income is to be cut with the final dividend due to be slashed from 17p a share to 6.5p.

The rest of the market had a relatively subdued session. The FT-SE 100 index ended 6.5 points higher at 2,922.4 and the FT-SE 250 rose 12.5 to 3,112.

Hopes of a German interest rate cut this week provided a little strength. Building materials and even brewers attracted some pre-Budget enthusiasm.

The sharp downturn in Hong Kong had an initial impact, but the strong advance by HSBC, the banking group, tended to submerge much of the anxiety. HSBC, despite weakening in Hong Kong, put on 20p to 624p once its results were known.

But Trafalgar's Hong Kong links failed to offer much comfort. Swiss Banking Corporation has, it is thought, picked up enough nil paid rights to cover its obligation to deliver its second block of shares to HongKong Land. SBC's block could take the Hongkong Land stake to near 30 per cent. The shares fell 5p to 73.5 and the nil paid rights 5p to 13p.

Insurers had to contend with the freak US storms. Shares wobbled uncertainly in early trading but the feeling grew that the latest damage will help the industry achieve higher premiums. By the close most of the early falls had been wiped out.

Dunhill Holdings, the luxury goods group controlled by Rothmans International, had a volatile session. Rumours that Smith New Court was selling pushed the shares down 22p to 320p. They closed just 4p lower at 338p.

Queens Moat Houses gained 4p to 49p in response to the Paribas comment. Whitegate Leisure's return to profits was greeted with a 5p gain to 27p.

Hoskyns, the computer group, rose 6p to 464p as the bid to mop up the minority from Cap Gemini Sogeti duly arrived. Amstrad, the electronics group, continued to advance, encouraged by the signalled new handheld personal digital computer. The shares advanced another 2.5p to 38p. The controversial buyout that Alan Sugar, chairman, attempted priced them at 30p.

The packaged holiday battle seems destined for a cliffhanger finish today. Airtours, which at one time seemed to have won the argument, ended 1p lower at 338p. Owners Abroad fell 9p to 138p. British Airways, which has achieved approval for a link with USAir, rose 3p to 298p.

Berisford International, the food group, was firm at 130p while FII, a shoe group, was suspended at 48p. The two are in talks to buy C&J Clark, the troubled family-controlled shoe group.

Heywood Williams continued to benefit from its pounds 95m glass sale to Pilkington, gaining 6p to 245p, a 59p gain since the deal was announced. Pilkington, helped by rumoured bullish comment from Charterhouse Tilney, improved 4p to 112p.

Aberdeen Petroleum edged ahead to 16p following the Pittencrieff offer. Brabant, resisting an Aberdeen bid, rose 9p to 53p as it revealed the hovering presence of another possible bidder. An increased offer from Aminex left Tuskar little changed at 1.25p.

The Budget account opened cautiously, with the FT- SE 100 index, after stripping out 6.51 points for dividend payments, climbing 6.5 points to 2,922.4 in relatively subdued trading. At one time it was down 7.2. The FT-SE 250 index improved 12.5 to 3,112. Turnover was 578.1 million with 38,936 bargains

More unrest at Hoskins Brewery, the little Leicester-based business run by Barrie Hoar. Richard Holman, a shareholder, appears to be gathering support for a new move against Mr Hoar and his brother Robert. Last year a revolt led by Richard Cattermole failed. Mr Holman has acquired some of the Cattermole shares and has 2.25 per cent. Hoskins rose 10p to 53p.

Celltech, a biotechnology group planning a share quote, has raised pounds 3.5m by selling convertible preference shares to American Cyanamid, the big pharmaceutical group working with Celltech on cancer treatments. The prefs convert into ordinary shares at pounds 6 each against rule 535 trades through Cazenove at 335p. Conversion would give AC a 4.3 per cent holding.

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