Market Report: Kuwaitis set to reduce stake in British Petroleum

A huge placing of British Petroleum shares is believed to be under way.

Stories flowed around the stock market that the Kuwait Investment Office was hoping to sell all, or part, of its remaining shares, a 9.3 per cent stake.

Fidelity, the big US investment house with 6.6 per cent of BP, was named as a possible buyer of some of the KIO interest.

The Kuwaitis once had around 30 per cent but were forced to reduce their holding. If they are planning a further sale they will benefit from a BP price near its all-time high.

The shares edged ahead 2p to 744.5p, so the KIO could expect to collect at least 720p a share, pricing its interest at around pounds 3.8bn.

Other oils were mainly firm with Cairn Energy enjoying the benefit of an encouraging Bangladesh presentation, up 13p to 554p, and Enterprise Oil ahead 11p to 667.5p.

The rest of the market had, by recent standards, an uncertain session. Footsie was on a roller coaster, climbing above 4,700 points again. But for the second day running it was unable to cling to such an exalted level and by the close was down to 4,686.9.

The modest decline ended a remarkable 11-session winning streak which lifted the index more than 300.

Supporting shares were again downcast with the FTSE 250 index off 3.7.

Uncertainty created by the Queen's Speech took the shine from blue chips. The market, which has chased takeover candidates, was unsettled by proposed legislation to make life more difficult for hostile bidders and plans for higher mobile telephone charges.

Some of the long-running takeover candidates lost some of their enthusiasm and mobile phone groups were misrouted with Vodafone off 6.5p to 275p and Orange 6.5p at 217.

BT, despite conditional EU approval for its MCI deal, was lowered 3p to 449.5p because of its mobile connection. Cable & Wireless was another to feel the telephone pinch, falling 14p to 498.5p.

Abbey National ended 22.5p lower at 935p as the rumoured bid failed to materialise, producing the usual I-told-you-so chorus in certain quarters. Alliance & Leicester recovered 11p to 613p and National Westminster Bank improved 12p to 810.5p.

Safeway rose 23.5p to 354.5p as results came in higher than expected and Airtours climbed 30p to 974.5p on its 28.8 per cent jump in summer bookings.

British Airways flew 31p higher to 742.5p as a five-way international airline deal offered promising support that its proposed alliance with American Airlines will get the regulatory all-clear.

De La Rue, the security printer, fell 26.5p to 501p in response to the still-to-be-confirmed placing by Merrill Lynch and builder Taylor Woodrow dropped 7p to 204p after a late trade of 1.35 million shares at 200.5p was printed.

T&N, the vehicles components group, gained 8.5p to 137p after a merger plan by the German Kolbenschmidt group where it has a 24 per cent stake.

Medeva, the health group, rose 14.5p to 286p with ABN Amro Hoare Govett and Merrill Lynch said to be positive.

Building materials had an awkward time as Caradon warned of difficult European and US markets, clipping its shares 8p to 226.5p. On Tuesday Roskel unsettled sentiment with a profits warning.

Essex Furniture, the retailer, helped its shares 12.5p to 82.5p by fixing a day - Friday next week - to announce its year's figures.

Merrydown, the alcopops and cider group, fell a sobering 15p to 75.5p as poor sales of its Two Dogs brand prompted a profit warning.

Datrontech, the computer group, fell 49.5p to 160p after a profit warning and more losses at On Demand Information left the shares 6p lower at 17.5p.

Pan Andean Resources firmed to 34.5p after severing its links with BHP, the Australian group, in Bolivia. It is looking for another partner; fears of a rights issue can be discounted.

John D Wood, the estate agent, gained 20p to 140p on the takeover approach and an offer for Circle Communications lifted the shares 7.5p to 75p.

Clothing group SR Gent put on 4.5p to 59.5p as the bid talks, first disclosed in October, presumably drifted on.

TJ Hughes, the retail department store chain, improved 3p to 86p.

Charterhouse Tilney increased its profits estimate and said the shares should "materially outperform".

It expects profits to advance to pounds 2.3m this year and to pounds 2.8m next.

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