Market Report: Legendary 'Evil Knievel' gives Allied a fright

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IT WAS almost like old times in the stock market yesterday. The atmosphere was quickly enlivened by an old fashioned bear raid and then attention dwelt on takeover stocks, British Aerospace and Vickers, and the possible rights issue candidates, such as Williams Holdings.

Allied-Lyons, the food and drink group, was the subject of the bear raid.

'Evil Knievel', a legendary but, many suspect, illusory figure, was said to be responsible for an early slump in Allied shares as a story gathered strength that a profits warning was about to be rolled out.

The so-called leader of the bear raiders has, if indeed he is the same character who has on many occasions plunged the market into disarray, achieved some rich pickings as selected shares have been savaged.

BET and Lloyds Chemists are among the shares that are alleged to have offered significant rewards to 'Evil Knievel' or his associates.

It is doubtful that Allied provided the 'Evil Knievel' profits that the bear raiders have come to expect. The shares quickly dived 34p before rallying to 638p, a fall of 9p. Trading was relatively brisk, with Seaq putting volume at 5.8 million.

After Grand Metropolitan's sobering profit warning, the disappointing figures from Guinness and Scottish & Newcastle's subdued shareholders' meeting, Allied was obviously a soft target. It had already been subjected to profit downgrades and Hoare Govett, which cut its Allied forecasts, was miffed to discover it was being blamed for the Allied discomfort.

Hoare reduced its estimate from pounds 650m to pounds 630m for this year and from pounds 755m to pounds 720m for next.

It is at the bottom end of City forecasts but felt it was sucked unwillingly into the Allied bear raid. Eric Frankis, its drinks analyst, recently recruited from UBS Phillips & Drew, had overcome his long-standing caution over Grand Metropolitan 'and we have received no credit for that', complained Hoare.

Grand Met ended unchanged at 455p. And just to complete the discomfort of the raiders, sources close to Allied said it would not be making a trading statement.

The brewer Bass, down 7p to 580p, was caught in the Allied ferment, although Martin Hawkins at Carr Kitcat & Aitken edged his forecast pounds 10m higher to pounds 560m.

BAe, on hopes that General Electric Company will put the aircraft and car maker out of its misery with a rescue takeover bid, climbed 13p to 126p. GEC gained 8p to 241p, effectively eliminating Wednesday's fall.

Vickers, at one time down 12p, ended 5p higher at 84p. Tomkins, the acquisitive conglomerate run by Greg Hutchings, was tipped as a likely bidder.

Williams moved ahead 13p to 289p. Rumours persist that it is about to buy Thorn EMI's security side and an announcement is expected today. Williams has failed in its last three hostile takeover attempts and is thought to be keen to achieve an agreed deal. However, any acquisition from Thorn could be accompanied by a rights issue that might not be too well received.

Most shares turned in another strong performance with the FT- SE share index closing above 2,600 points for the first time since June. Trading was again brisk, although the decline from last week's peaks continued with turnover down to 671.2 million.

Drug shares had a difficult session with stories flowing of US downgradings. A Goldman Sachs seminar in the US was said to have been far from positive. The possibility of a Democrat victory in November encouraged the spectre of health cuts.

Glaxo Holdings fell 18p to 779p and SmithKline Beecham 10p to 494p. But Wellcome put on a late spurt to 963p, up 8p.

Media stocks had an active session. A Merrill Lynch profits upgrading pushed Reuters 30p up to 1,248p and better-than-expected profits nudged United Newspapers 16p higher to 425p.

Storehouse ended 1p better at 158p. Barclays de Zoete Wedd has sharply increased its profit forecasts. It has lifted this year's expectation from pounds 33m to pounds 38m and that for year next from pounds 50m to pounds 60m.

Norcros, the building materials group, managed a 3p gain to 99p, despite bearish comments from Nikko, the Japanese securities house. It forecasts profits will edge ahead only pounds 400,000 to pounds 16m this year and is looking for pounds 20.5m next year.

Nikko believes the shares, which it once felt represented a good recovery play, will under- perform and that Morgan Crucible is a better bet.

Huntleigh Technology, the healthcare group, strengthened, with shares stretching to a 730p peak, closing at 723p. Cullens Holdings, 38p earlier this year, remained under strain, falling 1p to 12p, a new low.

The group, which runs convenience stores, suffered an unexpected profits fall last year, from pounds 825,000 to pounds 608,000.

Shares turned in another strong performance yesterday. The FT-SE share index ended 40.7 points up at 2,621.2, highest since June. The FT 30 share index was up 34.9 at 1,936.7. Turnover stretched to 671.2 million shares in 27,474 bargains. Government stocks were little changed.

Essex Furniture, the niche retailer and manufacturer, has pounds 1.3m in the bank and is on the look-out for suitable acquistions. Profits for the year to June should hit pounds 700,000, up from pounds 497,000. The stockbroker Williams de Broe expects pounds 1.1m for the current year. Essex believes present retail conditions offer expansion opportunities. The shares rose 1p to 48p.

Donelon Tyson, the building contractor and tunneller, is due to announce interim results today. They should be rather better than many of the figures produced by others in the contracting sector. Some expect a modest advance from last year's interims to pounds 1.5m. For the year the group's tunnelling operations should help profits nudge pounds 3.3m. The shares held at 30p.