Market Report: Market makers threaten HSBC Footsie debut

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The Independent Online
CONFUSION surrounds the arrival of the Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation, in the blue-chip FT-SE 100 share index.

The steering committee, which decides the index's composition, is meeting today to discuss the potentially embarrassing refusal of market makers to trade the HKdollars 10 shares of HSBC.

The Hong Kong dollar shares, as well as the 75p HSBC shares, were the stocks designated to replace Midland shares in Footsie.

But although there are 10 market makers prepared to deal in the 75p units there would appear to be not a solitary firm willing to make a book in the Hong Kong designated shares.

One reason for the sudden abandonment of the HKdollars shares, which were effectivbely 'mirror' traded until yesterday, was thought to be a fear that London market makers would be forced to play second fiddle to their Hong Kong counterparts and would, therefore, be at a disadvanatage.

Midland is due to slip from the Footsie on Monday, when HSBC's two units would be used for index calculations. But the switch is subject to trading starting today in HSBC dollar shares.

The steering committee's meetings usually occur once a quarter when Footsie is updated. The last special meeting was when Polly Peck, a Footsie constituent, crashed.

Midland Bank shares closed unchanged at 458p. HSBC was down 2p at 326p.

The rest of the stock market had a surprsingly strong session, with trading perking up a little and the FT-SE share index gaining 25.3 points to 2,497.9. But the advance failed to quell worries about the MFI share offer, which closes today. Some suggested the flotation had been heavily undersubscribed.

Goldman Sachs, the US securities house, seemed to be a prime player in the share advance. It was buying on the futures market and adopted a bullish stance towards Glaxo Holdings, sending the shares up 25p to 707p.

SmithKline Beecham, which confirmed its intention to sell or exchange some its toiletry brands, was also firm, up 30p to 912p with the pending share split encouraging most of the acitivity.

Storehouse, providing a little retail cheer, gained 1p to 137p. Ian Hay Davison, the chairman, told shareholders the year's results should be 'significantly better' than last year.

But high street groups had to contend with a raft of downgradings by Barclays de Zoete Wedd.

Oils also felt the impact of lower profit estimates. British Petroleum, Enterprise Oil, Lasmo and Shell were subjected to downgradings. But the overall market strength nullified some of the analysts' action. Kelt Energy rose 1.5p to 11.5p as it confirmed its return to profits.

British Aerospace failed to cling to an 18p gain on the back of the Airbus Industrie order from United Airlines. It closed at 245p, up 3p. Rolls-Royce, which will also benefit, fell 1p to 146p. But Lucas Industries, another beneficiary, jumped 9p to 124p

Hanson, caught by a downgrading from its own stockbroker, Hoare Govett, retreated 1p to 206.5p. Hoare has trimmed this year's estimate from pounds 1,13bn to pounds 1.075bn.

Albert Fisher, the food group, was the day's main casualty. A profit warning sent the shares crashing 36p. They closed 25p, down at 41p. Harland Simon, the computer group, tumbled 28p to 40p on its results.

Guinness, hit by a succession of profit downgrades, responded to a 5 per cent sales increase by LVMH, its French associate, with a 29p jump to 557p.

Hard-pressed Forte recovered 4p to 173p as Nomura said buy. It expects profits of pounds 95m this year and pounds 155m next. British Bio-tech started offical stock market life with a 5p fall to 425p.

TSB Group continued to intrigue. The shares have been strong, with rumours that a leading market maker is desperately short of stock mingling with renewed takeover stories. They gained 4p to 143p.

Since HSBC captured Midland, TSB has emerged as the most desirable UK bank. But few expect Lloyds Bank to bid following its failure to win Midland. The Continent, it is felt, could produce the eventual predator, with a French assault regarded as the most likely development. TSB could achieve profits of pounds 225m this year against losses of pounds 47m last time.

National Westminster Bank rose 9p to 328p as its problem US operation produced a second-quarter profit.

Trimoco, the garage group, stuck at 18p. The Jameel family of Saudia Arabia continues to stake-build, lifting its interest 29.6 per cent.

Everything comes to those who wait. . .Channel Tunnel Investments, the market's longest running shell, is buying Carflow Products, a supplier of car and truck locking wheel bolts. Yesterday the shares were suspended at 46p. The company was founded to develop the Channel tunnel but has been a sad little investment trust, with no direct tunnel involvement, for years.

Shares of Abaca Group, once called Zurich Group, fell 1p to 1.5p when it was disclosed that bid talks were taking place. But any deal will produce little joy for shareholders whose shares once touched 76p. The group said any bid would be at net asset value and a pounds 3.5 million cash injection was needed. Abaca has property and construction interests.

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