MARKET REPORT: Orange and BTR benefit as Footsie regains its poise

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The Independent Online
Shares displayed a little more poise as New York offered further encouragement, letting talk of a crash, or even a bungee jump, fade into the background. The FT-SE 100 blue chips index recaptured 25.9 points to 3,658.2, still 40.1 shy of the level ruling before the latest slump.

But if blue chips were short-changed, second-liners were mugged. After being hit much harder than the leaders in Tuesday's debacle they suffered the mortification of clawing back a mere 6.4 of the 90.6 points surrendered by the supporting 250 index. Second- and third-liners inevitably lag their blue chip peers but this week's display indicates the gap is yawning wider.

Signs unsettled unit trust holders, finding the emotion of the turmoil too much, were cashing in have so far made little impact. Some unit trust managers were said to be anxious to sell but found market conditions producing deals they refused to accept.

Among leaders, Orange, the mobile telephone group where the market future has looked decidedly grey, managed to recover 6p to 188.5p from its low. The shares were floated at 205p in March, touching 253p before starting their descent.

BTR managed a 7p gain to 239p but Hanson lost a further 3.5p to 157.5p as worries about its demerger continued to circulate.

At one time the market talked optimistically of a break-up value nudging 240p. Fears of huge provisions and possibly uncomfortably large tax bills have helped reduce estimates and erode confidence. Still Hanson continues to bask in a warm glow over National Grid. In April, in a deal where an air of mystery still lingers, it sold its 12.5 per cent Grid stake at 192p, then a 7p discount to the ruling price. Grid is now 169p, up 4p.

Tesco gained 6p to 284p partly on growing hopes it has abandoned hopes of a French supermarket strike and Next, up 12p at 519p, recovered some lost ground.

In all the excitement Eurotunnel has turned in a surprisingly resilient display, edging ahead a further 0.5p to 107.5p. There is a suspicion French shareholders, who dominate the debt-laden group, are supporting the price in a bid to force the group's bankers into offering shareholders a bigger chunk of the restructured business than they could normally expect.

The shares will suffer heavy dilution in any revamping exercise and on every yardstick are far too high.

Royal Insurance was unchanged at 386p and Sun Alliance 1p firmer at 362p.

Their giant merger has won court approval and becomes effective tomorrow when dealings in the new group are due to start.

The alliance creates a vacancy for a Footsie member. Railtrack, which suffered a near miss when Footsie was revised last month, is one candidate to join the exclusive club. It edged ahead 0.5p to 209.5p.

Iceland melted 24p to 118p, a new 12-month low, after a profits warning; English China Clays, one of Crest's first recruits, also suffered from a cautious statement, off 11p to 243p.

An 8.8 per cent reverse in European car sales last month prompted setbacks. Henlys fell 23p to 605p and GKN shaded 4p to 1,023p.

BAA, reflecting the Civil Aviation Authority prices package, rose a further 5p to 498p; SBC Warburg lifted its target price to 540p.

Rainford, an electrical equipment group, surged 67p to 295p and Innovations, the marketing business, rose 15p to 195p on bid approaches.

The astonishing tale of Ennemix, the small and until recently neglected aggregates business, continued as RMC revealed it had lifted its stake to 4.4 per cent. French group Lafarge has bid 52.5p and has 49 per cent and Redland sits on 41 per cent. The shares held at 60p. They were 19p in December.

HTV was firm at 350p. NatWest Securities trimmed its profit forecast 11 per cent to pounds 13.9m but rates the shares.

Pex, the textile group being reshaped, added 0.5p to 6p on a forecast return to profits.

Hat Pin, a headhunter, found the new issue market as fatigued as expected, trading at 65p against the 68p placing.

Alizyme, a biotech company, arrives today. The issue is thought to have been sharply scaled down to accommodate market reluctance. The group raised pounds 4.5m, placing shares at 60p.

Its debut will, no doubt, be hindered by the apparent flop of British Biotech's pounds 143.4m cash call.

Biotech ended at 1,963p, falling as soon as the offer closed, against the 2,050p rights offer.


Kenmare Resources has had a volatile time with its shares moving between 2.3p and 49.5p since 1990. They closed 1.5p down at 33p as the company revealed its Mozambique gold operation, discovered more by accident than design, was showing "widespread evidence of gold mineralisation" representing a possible 300,000 ounces strike. Other gold possibilities are being examined. It is also closer to Australian giant BHP over its mineral sands development. Kenmare placed nearly 9 million shares at 30.5p to finance its Mozambique venture.

Dana Petroleum also raised cash through a placing. It pulled in nearly pounds 4m selling shares at 14p to institutions. The cash is needed for its Siberian oil field. The shares gained 2.25p to 17.25p.