Market Report: Lonrho shares bask in reflected glow of Ashanti

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The Independent Online
LONRHO, the controversial trading group where Dieter Bock, the German financier, seems to have won the power struggle with founder Roland 'Tiny' Rowland, enjoyed a golden glow.

The shares rose 6p to 149.5p as excitement mounted ahead of Tuesday's expected flotation of its long-time associate, Ashanti, one of the world's biggest gold mines.

It is expected to be valued at up to pounds 1.67bn with the shares being priced at between dollars 17 and dollars 20.

Present indications are that trading, not due to start until Tuesday afternoon, will be hectic with the shares moving ahead strongly.

The sale follows the Ghanaian government's decision to sell 17.9 million shares, just over 22 per cent of the capital. The company is offering a further 3.5 million shares (4.4 per cent). But Lonrho is retaining its stake, which the sale will slim to 43 per cent.

Credit Lyonnais Laing believes trading in Ashanti 'will help crystallise the real value of Lonrho in investors' minds'.

Analyst Charles Kernot, suggesting the shares are a buy, believes they should quickly hit 160p but has 200p in his sights.

Lonrho's Ashanti stake will be worth pounds 400m, probably much more. It is in the Lonrho books at pounds 80m.

Mr Kernot looks for a sharp improvement in Lonrho's profits as the Bock-inspired surgery makes its impact. He expects pounds 126m this year (against pounds 79m) with pounds 142m next year.

Lonrho, engulfed in controversy over the past three decades, is now fading from the limelight, 'a direct result of its move to become one of the more normal companies quoted on the stock market', Mr Kernot says.

But even the CLL vision of a Lonrho revival leaves the group adrift from its halcyon days when profits topped pounds 273m and the shares raced to 333p.

The rest of the stock market was back on the uproad with the scent of lower interest rates again in the air.

Unexpectedly good inflation figures mingled with a modest increase in US industrial output to revive hopes of an interest rate cut in the wake of Thursday's German reduction.

The FT-SE 100 index improved 36.6 points to 3,168.3 and the supporting FT-SE 250 index rose 32.5 to 3,824.6.

Oils led the market higher as a clutch of investment houses predicted a much stronger crude price, possibly going above dollars 16 a barrel later in the year. Such bullishness sent British Petroleum surging 13.5p to 390p and Shell 18p to 728p. Enterprise went from 435p to 457p.

For Lasmo, predictions of an oil revival could not have come at a better time. Its shares rose 8p to 132p, dragging the nil paid rights 10p higher to 29p. The group announced its long-expected cash call - for pounds 219m - on Wednesday.

British Steel continued to make headway, climbing in brisk trading 2.75p to 155.25p, a new peak. Goldman Sachs was said to be buying.

But BAT Industries remained under the pressure created by the anti-tobacco lobby in the US, falling 6.5p to 443.5p.

Forte, the hotelier, fell a further 8p to 234p following its results, but brewer Bass remained firm, up 10p at 564p, as talk continued to flow that the long-awaited sale of the Britvic soft drinks business was about to be sealed.

Allied-Lyons, helped by Smith New Court support, was up 13p at 584p.

Hogg, the insurance broker where bidders hover, improved 12p to 221p; Avesco, a maker of broadcasting equipment, continued to respond to presentations for its soon-to-be-floated VideoLogic off-shoot, gaining 7p to 105p.

Newcomer Fiscal Properties made a subdued debut, ending at 75p against a 78p placing.

Motor dealers continued to benefit from the SG Warburg presentation and the strength of new car sales.

Inchcape enjoyed the added strength of Robert Fleming Securities, not always fans of the shares, pushing out a buy recommendation. The shares rose 25p to 563p. Quicks advanced 10p to 185p and European Motor 4p to 159p.

The component makers joined in, encouraged by indications of improving European car sales. GKN rose 15p to 594p; Lucas Industries 7p to 211p and T&N 11p to 251p.

The minerals group RTZ was an uncertain market, off 12p at 863p, with Warburg making negative noises.

Glaxo Holdings recovered a little of its poise, gaining 7p to 575p as it clinched a deal to market its Zofran anti-nausea drug in Japan. The drug, now Glaxo's third-best- selling product, is sold in 80 countries. Sales in the second half of last year topped pounds 200m.

Fisons again moved ahead, gaining 3p to 156p on recovery and takeover hopes.

The rescue package pushed the bridal wear group Cupid up 6p to 21p - the day's best gain.

The FT-SE 100 index closed near its best level of the day, up 36.6 points at 3,168.3, and the FT-SE 250 index rose 32.5 to 3,824.6. Turnover was 698.8 million shares with 26,569 bargains. The account ends on 22 April. Settlement is 3 May. Gilts were strong.

Rodime more than halved to 15p as its hopes of a litigation fortune in the US suffered a sharp setback. The company has made patent claims against US computer groups, but yesterday a judge said certain claims against Quantum were invalid. Rodime is appealing. The group's shares hit a 49p high in January. Since then there has been considerable director selling.

Action at CRP Leisure, where the Italian financier, Giuliano Lotto, is thought to nurse expansion designs. Dolman Holdings, an obscure Jersey operation which acquired 22.3 per cent last month, is lending the struggling group pounds 150,000 and the accountant JGW Chalmers is joining the board. A placing is likely. Results of the pub furnisher will be out shortly. The shares rose 1.5p to 8p.

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