Market Report: Pound's fall puts Reed merger terms in doubt

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The Independent Online
REED INTERNATIONAL, the publishing group, should indicate today how much it has been forced to revise the terms of its pounds 5.2bn merger with the Dutch Elsevier group.

The latest Anglo-Dutch merger was announced as the pound was forced out of the ERM. It has since slumped against most currencies, including the Dutch guilder.

The pound's devaluation must have a considerable impact on the calculations surrounding the combined group. When the deal was announced it seemed Reed would have a 54 per cent stake and take an 11.5 per cent interest in Elsevier.

Today Reed is due to announce its interim results. About pounds 88.5m, down from pounds 1l7.8m, is expected. Chairman Peter Davis has left the way clear to delay any final merger terms until next month. But the uncertainty created by the pound could force him to spell out the likely terms with the results. Reed's shares fell 5p to 575p.

The rest of the stock market dillied and dallied ahead of the Chancellor's Mansion House speech. The FT-SE 100 index fell 8.1 points to 2,642.3.

In early trading the Bank of England's hints of further interest rate cuts helped sentiment. Then the long-suspected counter-bid for Ranks Hovis McDougall materialised - not, as most felt, from the French BSN giant but from the unlikely quarter of Tomkins, the industrial conglomerate.

Through Barclays de Zoete Wedd, Tomkins attempted to pick up 40 million RHM shares at just over 269p. It failed, probably getting about 10 million.

RHM ended 21.5p higher at 273p. Tomkins crashed 49p to 212p and opening bidder Hanson fell 5.5p to 226.5p.

Imperial Chemical Industries, where Hanson built a 2.8 per cent hostile stake before selling at a profit, ended 14p down at 1,036p after producing even worse than expected nine-month figures.

The shares would, no doubt, have suffered an even more acute reversal if the market had not snatched at the beguiling possibility that Hanson, shorn of the RHM prize, will return to haunt ICI.

Hanson's chairman and creator, Lord Hanson, cherishes the ambition of pulling off one more spectacular deal before he retires. ICI, looking increasingly vulnerable as its profits collapse, could still offer the most realistic opportunity to fulfil his ambition.

The 2.8 per cent Hanson shareholding was built at a price of just under 1,200p. It was sold to Goldman Sachs at 1,400p. Most accept Goldman has trickled out the shares, although some suspect the US investment house still has stock to unload.

ICI's poor trading - Smith New Court expect a year's figure of pounds 550m against last year's pounds 843m - could lead to a dividend cut and the shelving of its demerger plan.

Glynwed, the engineering group which had been regarded as a likely Tomkins target, fell 4p to 202p. Rolls-Royce dipped 2p to 129p, with foreign shareholdings reaching 25.8 per cent. British Airways, after Wednesday's turbulence, edged ahead 1.5p to 282.5p.

Royal Insurance advanced 8p to 215p. Stories of a bid from the German Allianz insurance group continue to circulate.

British Petroleum fell 3.5p to 231.5p despite what was seen as an encouraging report on its important Cusiana field in Colombia. Shell was little changed at 534p as S G Warburg placed 3.5 million shares at 531p.

Slough Estates continued to advance, spurred by lower interest rate hopes and the suspicion that stake-building ahead of bid action is under way. The shares rose a further 4p to 134p after touching 138p.

Barclays, the banking group, edged ahead 3p to 339p. Comments on interest rates were interpreted in some quarters that the bank would hold its dividend.

Cadbury Schweppes fell 14p to 451p as SNC made cautious noises. James Capel hit MFI Furniture, down 6p at 112p, while Reuters, 20p down at 1,178p, continued to suffer from the BZW downgrading.

There was a series of agency crosses. Lionheart, a houseware products group, tumbled 3p to 11.5p as shares went through at 11p. Hoskins Brewery, expected to be the subject of a lively shareholders' meeting today, held at 45p. There was talk that a line of 50,000 hovered.

Brabant Resources fell 8p to 14p, following director share buying at 14p. Etonbrook, the property group, rose 3p to 73p as Andrew Perloff resumed hostilities by launching a 73p-a-share tender offer for 10.86 per cent of the capital. He and associates already have 19.13 per cent.

Haemocell rose 25p to 249p following the cash call.

After a bright start shares fell back yesterday. The FT-SE 100 index ended 8.1 points down at 2,642.3 after at one time being up 10.1. The FT 30-share index fell 7.8 points to 1,948.7. Turnover was again above 500 million shares break-even level, stretching to 567.1 million. Bargains reached 23,526

Queens Moat Houses, the hotel group, is rumoured to be on the verge of clinching a deal with Holiday Inn, the hotel chain owned by the Bass brewing group. One suggestion is that some of QMH's UK hotels will be switched to the Holiday Inn franchise, plugging a yawning gap in the group's network. QMH shares fell 1p to 40p yesterday.

Colorvision, the Liverpool-based TV and video stores chain with about pounds 6m cash in the bank, should achieve profits of pounds 1.9m this year, believes stockbroker Beeson Gregory. In the following year it expects the 83 outlet business to make pounds 2.6m. The shares, at 93p, are bumping along near their low. Floated at 120p five years ago, they have been as high as 270p.