Market Report: It was a portfolio trade, not a rogue

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The Independent Online
THE ORDER-DRIVEN trades on Friday, which sent Footsie tumbling around 25 points in the closing seconds, were not rogue, maverick or even spaghetti-fingered deals, according to the Stock Exchange.

The Exchange has been in touch with the parties concerned and, surprise, surprise, they are perfectly happy with the transactions.

At Friday's close BG crashed 30.5p to 340p; Abbey National lost 89p to 1,006p and Woolwich jumped 22.75p to 343p. They were, says the Exchange, part of a large portfolio trade where, perhaps, individual prices were less important than the overall outcome.

The Stock Exchange insists that the final Footsie calculation, which is based on trades conducted on the order book and ignores all other deals, was not distorted.

The mind boggles. If the trade in Abbey National - 1,006p against what appeared to be a more realistic 1,060p - was not a miscue, then coincidence is being stretched to breaking point.

Yesterday Abbey returned to normality, closing 60p up at 1,066p. BG rose to 360.5p, up 20.5p, and Woolwich lost Friday's late rush to end at 327p, down 16p.

Although the parties to the various suspect transaction may be content, the Exchange is overlooking the possibility that valuations, particularly of estates, could be hit by a distorted closing Footsie, as well as individual share prices which may have been subjected to late mysterious trades. It admits it is powerless to intervene if the respective parties to a deal are willing to accept the closing prices. But that situation must offer some tempting possibilities for maverick trades.

Such Footsie nonsense should end when a "weighted" final calculation is introduced at year-end. The new calculation, together with the decision to adjust the index on New Year's Eve, are clear indications that the Exchange realises the dangers of its controversial order book.

There were some odd trades yesterday. At one time Halifax, thanks to an order-book deal, was up 50p. The shares closed 21p up at 701p.

Footsie ended 12.2 points higher at 5,467.2. It swung between a 30.9- point gain and a fall of 57. The supporting indices were sharply lower.

National Power, up 30p to 553p, was fuelled by stories of a Nomura-led bid. Some wonder whether, with the parlous state of the Japanese economy, Nomura could put together an pounds 8.5bn consortium.

Generally the market looked for safe shares, those which could ignore the turmoil in Russia, where the inevitable devaluation occurred, and the continuing Far Eastern problems, with Tokyo near a 12-year low.

Kingfisher, helped by CSFB, jumped 29p to 454p. Retail shares have underperformed as consumer demand has evaporated, but CSFB believes sentiment is about to change.

The Glaxo Wellcome/SmithKline Beecham merger was given another whirl. Indeed Glaxo was suspended in Tokyo for a while. It later denied the aborted talks had been resurrected. Its shares, at one time up 59p, ended 41p higher at 1,908p. SB ended 10p (after 32p) higher at 693p. Zeneca was also hauled back into the bid ward, gaining 62p to 2,212p on talk of a link with Astra, the Swedish group.

Booker, the cash-and-carry chain, fell 5p to 267.5p as Somerfield, off 18p at 404.5p, emerged as the possible bidder. Polyhedron, the tools group once known as Record Ridgway, jumped 21.5p to 66p as the possibility of a bid at a "significant premium" was announced. Thistle Hotels was up 2.5p to 216p. After hours came the announcement that bid talks, said to be with Nomura, were off.

BTR gave ground, falling 4.5p to 160.5p. However, stories persist of corporate action: Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the US break-up specialist, remains the name in the frame.

Granada hardened 33p to 833p as Merrill Lynch put a 1,075p target on the shares; there was a 4.3 million placing.

Cable & Wireless jumped 24.5p to 756p. Verba, the German group with a 10.17 per cent stake, was thought to have picked up 6 million shares through Merrill Lynch.

Tobaccos improved after a US court blocked government efforts to give the Food and Drug Administration regulatory powers over the industry. BAT Industries responded with a 23p gain to 651p and Imperial Tobacco puffed 7.5p higher to 558p.

Selfridges improved a further 15.5p to 239p on reports that Canadian millionaire Galen Weston wants to bid. Troubled Regent Inns was another up on bid reports, scoring a 13.5p gain to 169p on weekend suggestions that Bass was interested in picking up the managed house chain.

ComputaCenter, romping ahead at 783p in June, gained 25p to 682.5p. First- half figures are due on Thursday. Emerald Energy was actively traded, holding at 6.5p. It is said to be within 150 feet of hitting its oil target in the Magdalena valley in Colombia. Managing director Peter Winton said: "We have to be close".



GILTS INDEX: n/a Burtonwood, the regional brewer, firmed to 169.5p. It has, in effect, decided to become a pub company with an interest in brewing. A 60 per cent shareholding in its Warrington, Cheshire, brewery is being taken by Thomas Hardy, which runs the Eldridge Pope brewery at Dorchester. Burtonwood will retain the remaining 40 per cent. The new venture, besides supplying Burtonwood's 500pubs , hopes to contract brew for other pub companies and independent retailers. Burtonwood has 9 per cent of the Paramount pubs chain.

Systems International, the IT consultancy and recruitment group, has won a pounds 650,000 contract with Air Express, a provider of freight transport. The shares ended at 74.5p.

Parkland, the hard-pressed textile group, may get a bid. Some of its shareholders are apparently thinking of one: the shares firmed 3p to 34.5p.