Market Report: Historic occasion passes off with little excitement

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The Independent Online
A LONG-STANDING stock market ritual was played out for the last time yesterday - trading for the new account. And, as if to underline the lethargy embracing the market, only a few deals were executed.

'We have had a very quiet time,' said one normally busy private client broker. 'A few BTR and Hanson for new time and very little else.'

The end of account trading follows the controversial introduction of rolling settlement. The two-week account starting on Monday will be the last, ending a 200-year-old tradition.

Instead of share transactions being settled on account days, usually falling in the week after the end of the trading account, they must be completed within 10 days. It is expected that the rollover period will go down to five days, possibly next year, and then to three.

The change represents a problem for many private investors. Institutions are already geared to some form of rolling settlement.

Private client stockbrokers are busy putting together schemes for investors. Setting up desposit accounts and clients holding shares in specially created nominee companies are two facilities being offered.

It is thought arrangements are also being made for account-style trading, perhaps extending to five weeks, But such exercises will attract special, possibly onerous, charges.

For private clients who do not open deposit accounts, the 10-day rollover will, in effect, be cut to seven after allowing for cheques being cleared.

The penultimate account closed with the FT-SE 100 index up 17.2 points at 2,936.4 in modest trading. A firm New York opening, relaxed government stocks and futures trading provoked the advance.

During what has been a torrid account Footsie, off nearly 150 points last week, ended 86.5 points lower.

For most of the session eyes were trained on the oil sector, awaiting the result of the Enterprise bid for Lasmo. After the market closed it was announced Enterprise had been resoundingly defeated, capturing only 32.8 per cent of its target.

The offer lapsed. Lasmo was 1.5p higher at 136p and Enterprise up 9.5p to 398.5p.

Insurances were firm, with talk that the sector will produce the next big takeover bid. TransAtlantic, the South African- controlled group that forged a powerful alliance with Union des Assurances de Paris to buy Sun Life, is likely to be at the centre of any action.

It is known to nurse US expansion plans but is also seen as a possible bidder for GRE, up 7p at 177p, or Sun Alliance, 8p firmer at 293p.

Imperial Chemical Industries was again firm, up 15p to 790p. Marks and Spencer was squeezed 7.5p higher to 399p. BICC, the cables and construction group, edged ahead 3p to 394p, reflecting NatWest Securities support.

Banks steadied after Thursday's fall, with Abbey National 7p firmer at 400p. But TSB remained weak, down 4p to 199p on reported management changes.

Two profit warnings ruffled sentiment. Casket, the clothing group that has built an impressive cycle-making side, said the 'promising start' to the year had not been sustained. The shares fell 8p to 38.5p.

There was, however, disquiet about a large line of stock that came on offer on Thursday. It was offered at 45p but a deal was settled at 43.5p.

Betacom, the telephone group controlled by Amstrad, fell 4p to 11p after it said second-half profits would be below expectations. Stockbroker Beeson Gregory believes year's profits will be down to pounds 200,000. Last year Betacom produced pounds 500,000.

Avesco, the broadcasting equipment group, fell 10p to 59p on disappointment with the 45p- a-share pricing of VideoLogic, which is being hived off. Earlier this year, before the market fell away, there were hopes of an 80p price. Dealings in VideoLogic start next week.

Chiltern Radio jumped 33p to 273p as Daily Mail & General Trust destroyed the planned takeover by CLT, which used to run Radio Luxembourg. With a partner DMGT acquired nearly 10 per cent of Chiltern in the market, lifting the combined stake to 28.49 per cent. CLT's bid was 242p a share.

Insurance broker C E Heath fell 4p to 320p. It is selling an Australian operation which will reduce reported profits from pounds 11.84m to pounds 3.8m.

Housebuilder Cussins, back into profits last year, held at 105p. Henry Cooke Lumsden expects pounds 2.2m this year and pounds 2.7m next.

Midland Assets, launched to buy four nursing homes for pounds 1.9m from Northern Leisure, held at 16p. Stancroft Trust, run by Nicholas Berry, is showing increasing interest, lifting its stake from 7.06 per cent to 11.03 per cent. Midland is headed by Nicholas Oppenheim, a founder and vice-chairman of Northern. It raised pounds 2.4m through a 14p-a- share placing.

A torrid day for Anagen, a biotechnology group that came to market last summer at 100p. Persistent, mostly small, selling sent the shares diving 19p to 51p. They closed at 58p. The company said it knew of no reason for the slump, adding that progress continued to be made in line with expectations. The group has said it does not expect to get into profit until 1996.

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