Market Report: Pepsi prospects sweeten Tate & Lyle shares

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The Independent Online
TATE & LYLE is expected to win back at least some of the important Pepsi-Cola supply contract it lost last year.

Yesterday the sugar group's shares rose 5.5p to 397.5p as indications of the Pepsi change of heart filtered across the Atlantic.

US difficulties were a significant factor in Tate suffering its first profit setback for 14 years when last month it announced a fall from pounds 230.8m to pounds 189.5m.

But lower syrup sales to the US soft drink industry were only part of the problem. In a surprise move it suspended production of Sucalose, a sugar substitute, because the US Food and Drug Administration had not granted approval.

Analysts expect the group to stage a recovery this year and many had anticipated it would win back its Pepsi spurs. County NatWest is looking for profits of pounds 240m this year with pounds 261m in the following year.

Tate was not, however, the only food manufacturer attracting attention. Hillsdown Holdings in late trading jumped 10p to 122p with some talking of corporate developments being planned. Hillsdown is likely to suffer a profit setback this year with around pounds 170m, down from pounds 186.8m, expected.

The rest of the stock market experienced a lacklustre session with Welsh Water creating something of a splash when it placed, through Cazenove and County, its 14.9 per cent shareholding in South Wales Electric at 460p. WW rose 16p to 529p but SWE fell 8p to 473p.

A strong performance by the water sector helped restrict the FT-SE 100 index fall to 3.9 points at 2,717.9. But, suggesting once again that the 250 shares outside the index have a growing and independent following, the FT-SE 250 index rose 12.5 points to 2,680.4.

Glaxo Holdings was under the weather, 19p off at 791p, as the market fretted about a successful presentation by Astra, the Swedish drug group that was seen as highlighting pressure on Glaxo's highly successful Zantac drug.

Some old - and a few new - takeover stories were revived to try and generate a little interest. Kwik Fit, the tyre and exhaust group, rose 5p to 101p on stories that Kingfisher, rapidly emerging as the bidder for all seasons, was about to pounce. Last month Kwik Fit shares were driven to 112p before the company poured cold water on the excitement. Kingfisher fell 9p to 552p.

Hammerson, the property group, was caught up by stories of a US-inspired bid. Others seemed prepared to bank on Hanson interest. The 'A' limited voting shares jumped 23p to 277p and the ordinary shares 25p to 299p. The 'A' shares were 190p when in October Hammerson warned it would halve its year's dividend.

General Electric Co improved 4.5p to 262p, reflecting investment presentations, and Vodafone Group put on 8p to 417p following its clearance to establish a mobile telephone network in Australia.

Eurotunnel fell 11p to 329p as its dispute with the contractors worsened. Wolseley, the building equipment group, advanced 11p to 521p following a presentation in Scotland. P&O improved 17p to 476p, helped by Panmure Gordon interest.

GKN, the engineer, put on 4p to 433p as Henderson Crosthwaite said buy, forecasting that profits this year will climb pounds 30m to pounds 125m.

Profit downgradings were again an influence. Argo Wiggins Appleton, the packaging and paper group, was again shredded as Cazenove and SG Warburg cut their estimates. The shares fell 9p to 132p.

English China Clays, down 15p to 400p, felt the County and Smith New Court whip and Queens Moat Houses, the hotel group, suffered from a Barclays de Zoete Wedd forecast cut, retreating 2.5p to 37p.

Rothmans International slipped 10p to 625p as BZW made negative noises and RTZ, the resources group, felt the weight of James Capel caution, down 18p at 623p.

Mirror Group Newspapers enjoyed a late speculative run, advancing 6p to 86p. Associated British Ports was another in demand, up 18p at 348p.

NMC Group, the packaging operation that last year failed with a pounds 32m bid for its rival API, edged forward 2p to 52p. Whispers are around that the group could again be involved in bid action. But some believe a more likely development will be the flotation of NMC's important US off-shoot, Universal Packaging Group. In July the group passed its final dividend because of uncertainties about the timing and proceeds of the move.

Tadpole Technology's erratic run continued. The shares advanced to 182p then fell to 166p, down 13p. It is thought that a seller of 100,000 shares has done the damage in the past two days.

In lacklustre trading leading shares drifted lower yesterday. The FT-SE 100 index ended 3.9 points down at 2,717.9. It moved between a 1.5 gain and an 11.4 fall. But the FT-SE 250 index rose 12.5 to 2,680.4. Turnover was 549.9 million shares with 22,017 bargains. Government stocks were up to pounds 1/4 lower

Rumours suggesting Owners Abroad, the tour operator, will forge links with LTU of Germany continue to circulate. One idea is that LTU, which recently bought the Thomas Cook travel agency chain, will take a 20 per cent holding. Analysts say Owners is under pressure to emulate Airtours' move into the high street via the purchase of Pickfords. Owners rose 5p to 88p.

Alexander Russell, the biggest sand and gravel group in Scotland, edged ahead 5p to 65p as RMC Group nearly doubled its shareholding to 21.6 per cent. Most of the shares seem to have come from Royalty Finance, a Swiss-based Arab consortium related to Raschid and Osman Abdullah, who run Starmin, the quarrying group. Royalty has cut its stake to 5.7 per cent.