Market Report: Harvey Nichols makes an absolutely fabulous debut

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The Independent Online
Harvey Nichols made an "absolutely fabulous" stock market debut. The Knightsbridge department store, featuring a host of celebrities among its customers, surged to 334p, a 64p advance from its placing price.

A scintillating opening had been widely expected with the share offer heavily oversubscribed. With Custom & Excise facing VAT repayments to retailers, the stores sector was in a receptive mood to embrace its upmarket recruit.

At one time the price reached 340p; turnover topped 11 million shares.

Other retailers on a wave included Dixons, Courts and Kingfisher.

The rest of the stock market failed to hold its best levels but turned in its most positive performance of the week with the FT-SE 100 index up 13.5 points at 3,832.8 and the supporting index producing yet another record march, up 15.3 to 4,568.6.

Power shares again produced much of the action. In early trading National Power was off 9p at 547p as the rumoured dawn raid failed to materialise. But American buying strengthened the suspicion the Southern Co still hovered and was ready to plough into the market.

The shares gained 10p to 566p in often brisk trading. PowerGen rallied 7p to 562p.

The surviving distributors are seen as targets for foreign assaults following the Government's decision to block the NP and PG bids. London Electric gained 18p to 840p and Southern 14p to 849p.

Waters produced a sprinkling of gains with Thames up 9p at 583p and Severn Trent, on talk of a US bid on Monday, 27p firmer at 617p.

Drug shares were again on a high with Zeneca, up 18.5p to 1,406.5p on continuing speculation of a Roche bid. Chiroscience had a remarkable session. Speculation about its cancer treatment drove the shares 188p ahead to 588p, a 300p two-day surge.

Then the company let it be known it intended to raise pounds 40m through a rights issue, underwritten by Lehman Brothers, the US investment house. The shares promptly lost much of their exuberance but managed to finish with a 60p gain at 460p. Celltech, 20p at 608p, and Cortecs International, 19p at 418p, were among those pulled higher in sympathy.

British Airways was lowered 7p to 533p on talk it may soon tap shareholders for more cash but Airtours, the holidays group, rose 11p to 512p, a 12- month high, on growing appreciation of its reduced holiday programme and the feeling Carnival, the US cruise group which recently acquired a near- 30 per cent interest, could be tempted to mount a bid for full control.

Schroders, the securities group, jumped 70p to 1,303p on UBS support and the ever present bid speculation and Perpetual, the fund manager, recorded further progress, up 93p at 2,438p.

Imperial Chemical Industries profit caution left the shares off 23p at 903p. Rentokil, as the market anticipated its BET victory, was the best- performing blue chip, gaining 26p to 386p. BET rose 16p to 219p.

The failure of the rumoured US bid to appear left Micro Focus, the computer group, off 30p at 985p but Ladbroke hid its disappointment that its long- rumoured predator remained elusive, losing an early gain to end unchanged at 203p.

Brent Walker, the remains of George Walker's once high-flying empire, added 1.5p to 5.5p, highest for 30 months. Trading was brisk with stories circulating of a deal with Ladbroke over its William Hill betting shop chain.

The idea, fanciful even by the standards of a dull Friday, was that Hilton Hotels Corporation would buy Ladbroke's international Hilton hotels and Scottish & Newcastle the second-line UK hotels. The rump of Ladbroke would then take on William Hill from debt-laden Brent Walker which would then float its Pubmaster chain.

Signet, with talk of a jewellery shop sale next week, gained 2.25p to 31.5p. JO Walker, the timber group, was suspended at 743p as chairman Adam Page duly announced plans to pump his leisure interests into the group.

Wiggins, the property group raising pounds 1.5m by selling shares at 6.5p, held at 7p. The cash is required for land at its International Business Park in Kent.

Internet prospects gave Acorn Computer a 17p push to 273p and Triad, a computer software business, rose 29p to 236p. The shares were placed at 135p last month.

Porter Chadburn gained 5p on a US acquisition and pounds 7m rights issue; Eclipse Blinds rose 5p to 109p following a pounds 4.9m cash call and a US buy.

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