MARKET REPORT: Investors scent another Glaxo bonus as price hits peak

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The Independent Online
Shares of the Glaxo Wellcome drugs giant climbed 30p to a 1,281.5p peak, offering the possibility that shareholders will soon receive another share bonus.

On four occasions in the 1980s and 90s the group has handed out free shares, either through a bonus or split. It has usually acted when it regarded its shares as overweight, an event which starts to become more apparent the more they climb above pounds 10.

US approval to sell an anti-smoking drug, Zyban, provided the latest inspiration. The new treatment, which should be on sale within the next two months, is regarded as one of Glaxo's possible blockbusters with some analysts estimating sales will be nudging $500m a year by the end of the century.

Zyban is the first nicotine-free smoking treatment. It is said to suppress the need to smoke rather than, like other treatments, satisfying the craving by offering nicotine in another form.

Another drug giant, Zeneca, put on 15p to 1,983.5p on the planned stock market flotation of its 20 per cent owned associate, Sugen.

The rest of the stock market had a rather featureless session although turnover, ballooned by the Kuwait Investment Office sale of British Petroleum shares, topped 1 billion.

Footsie, at one time down 32.5 points, slowly clawed its way back but failed to end in positive territory, closing 5.7 down at 4,681.2.

Bass, the brewing and hotel giant, frothed up 13p to 829p, partly on Goldman Sachs support. A story that the new President of the Board of Trade, Margaret Beckett, was on the verge of pronouncing on the controversial bid for Carlsberg Tetley contributed to the activity.

The pounds 200m bid was put in nearly a year ago. The resultant Monopolies & Mergers Commission report was completed shortly before the election campaign got under way but any DTI decision postponed until the new Government took office.

There are suggestions the MMC is demanding any Bass deal should be conditional on the sale of up to 2,000 pubs and some brands. If the conditions are too draconian Bass is likely to walk away.

Abbey National was back in the takeover frame. At one time the shares were down 19.5p. They closed a shade firmer at 935.5p.

Although HSBC is still regarded as a likely bidder the rumour mill seemed to favour a deal with the other contender, BAT Industries.

BAT, ran the story, may bid for Abbey or pump its financial operations into the former building society in exchange for shares.

Such a manoeuvre would be the final act in the great BAT unbundling, started when Sir James Goldsmith and friends launched their hostile bid.

BP, after the KIO sold 3 per cent of the company through Goldman Sachs, ended 20p lower at 724.5p with the extent of the discount causing surprise.

A placing in builder Amec gave its shares a 5p lift to 146.5p. Credit Lyonnais Laing and NatWest Securities sold 52.8 million shares (25.85 per cent) for Kvaerner, the Norwegian group, at 140p. The stake was the legacy of the Norwegians' unsuccessful bid for Amec. Kvaerner, which went on to take over Trafalgar House, made a pounds 22m profit on the holding.

Pearson, the banking and publishing group, fell 20p to 702.5p with US house JP Morgan said to be active in the shares. Volume was not heavy but trading was often confused, with market makers caught on the hop.

Safeway, the supermarket group put on 6.5p to 361p on BZW support; an upbeat trading statement and SBC Warburg backing pushed Independent Insurance 46p better to 798.5p. Warburg sees profits of pounds 79m by 1999 against pounds 51.9m last year and put a 1,000p target on the shares.

Mercury Asset Management fell 69.5p to 1,372 following figures and a growing feeling the fund manager is lining up a major acquisition. Barclays gained 12p to 1,265.5p as the story that it planned to sell its securities arm resurfaced.

Aggregate Industries, the CAMAS and Bardon group, closed at 52p, up 3.5p.

Calderburn, a furniture group which recently produced improved figures, gained 5 p to 38.5p; TLS, the vehicle rental group, held at 114.5p as Friends Provident trimmed its stake to 15 per cent.

Utilitec, the old Cruden Bay, was at one time down 10p following a profit warning and the surprise departure of fund manager Matthew Tawse who masterminded the arrival of the gas and water services group. The shares closed off 3p at 70.5p.