Market Report: Media hard hit as 'Gazza' gazes into her crystal ball

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The Independent Online
Gazza returned to cause havoc yesterday, almost a decade since the influential prodigy first burst on to the international scene.

The Gazza in question, however, is not the one who wears three lions on his shirt, is prone to excessive in-flight "refuelling" and got married to Cheryl the other day.

No, the Gazza doing the damage again is Elaine Garzarelli, a former Lehman Brothers strategist best known for calling the 1987 stock market crash.

On Tuesday, in a sudden change of heart, she warned clients of further declines in the value of US stocks. Shares might fall by 15-20 per cent from their recent peaks, she said. Since May, Wall Street has fallen by more than 7 per cent while the technology-dominated Nasdaq index is down 16 per cent since June.

Ms Garzarelli, who enjoys a big following in the US investment community, expects corporate profits to slow later this year and in 1997, largely because companies' cash flow is deteriorating.

While not the first stock market guru to turn bearish on Wall Street in recent weeks, her comments were quickly seized on by investors on both sides of the Atlantic.

The bearish mood in London was underlined by stronger-than-expected growth in UK retail sales in June which revived fears that the next move in interest rates could be up. At one stage the Footsie was almost 65 points down, but recovered to close a net 39.6 weaker at 3,668.8.

Hardest hit were highly rated growth sectors such as media. Reed International fell 35p to 1066, Pearson shed 19p to 621p and Reuters, was off 25p at 703p after warning the launch of the 3000 range, its new financial information system, would hit revenues in the short term.

The sector has been the centre of renewed bid speculation this week, but the absence of any such developments sent Yorkshire Tyne-Tees Television, a rumoured target for Granada, 23p lower to 1205p while HTV, supposedly being lined up by Carlton, dipped a penny to 338p.

Another big decliner among blue chips was Glaxo Wellcome, down 27.5p to 884p after Emory University of Atlanta filed a patent infringement suit seeking damages on the sale and distribution of 3TC, Glaxo's new Aids treatment. Biotechnology stocks were also out of favour. Casualties included British Biotech, 98p weaker at 1,970p, Chiroscience, off 13p at 313p and ML Laboratories, 15p easier at 360p.

It was a bad day for a hi-tech stock to issue a profits warning and Virtuality was suitably clobbered. Shares in the virtual reality head-set manufacturer crashed 56p to 177p as the company warned it would not make its maiden profit this year. Rival VR group Division fell 5p to 73p in sympathy.

Bullough was also in the doldrums. Shares in the office furniture group tested their five-year low, falling 13p to 86p, after the interim dividend was cut and problems in France were highlighted.

Elsewhere, dealers noted switching into underperforming, high-yielding shares like National Grid (1.5p up at 171.5p), P&O (unchanged at 494p) and Allied Domecq, steady at 426p.

British Energy was an active issue with 15.4 million shares traded as private investors finally received their share certificates and, if they applied for 500 shares or more, a small cheque in the post. The partly- paid shares, which were oversubscribed two weeks ago, were firm at 97p.

Buyers returned to Thorn EMI after Tuesday's disappointing first-quarter results from its music division. The shares were the best performers in the Footsie, adding 19p to 1714p after rival Polygram produced better- than-expected figures. Lloyds TSB, reporting tomorrow, retreated 4.5p to 328.5p. Analysts at Lehman Brothers think the figures should underline the strength of the enlarged banking group even before merger savings begin to accrue.

Preliminary results from security and emergency lighting group Menvier- Swain were well received with the shares adding 25p to 270p and UBS reiterating its positive stance.

Mini-conglomerate Suter, led by David Abell, confirmed earlier market speculation that it was in talks with Ascot Holdings, formerly Nazmu Virani's Control Securities. The former closed up 27p at 196.5p, while the bidder finished 8p weaker at 361p. Ascot is expected to launch a 230p per share offer this morning.

Epic Multimedia continued its good run this week, notching up another 7p to close at 85p.

TAKING STOCK

r Stentor fell 14p to 171p. The Dublin-based telecommunications group has been riding high since floating on AIM at 72p in April. Recent interconnection deals with AT&T and an affiliate of US Cable Corporation, one of America's largest cable operators, mean Stentor can now offer value- added services not available on rival networks such as Telecom Eireann. Broker Shaw & Co thinks this is not reflected in a market value of pounds 12m, an excellent play on one of the fastest growing sectors of the booming Irish economy.

r Engineer Widney is splashing out pounds 1.7m on Palcon, which designs, makes and installs control panels for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. The deal is seen as enhancing earnings by up to 15 per cent next year and the lowly-rated shares rose 4p to 77p.

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