Market Report: Princess Metropole float stumbles at the first hurdle

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The Independent Online
Princess Metropole, the Lonrho hotel arm, may not make it to the stock market starting blocks.

Stories are flowing that Dieter Bock, the man reshaping the international trading group, could be tempted into a trade sale, rather than suffering the rigours of a flotation.

Sir Rocco Forte, still seeking an hotel involvement after having the Forte group snatched away by Granada, and Stakis are among the names said to be chasing the Princess.

One theory is that Sir Rocco will buy the 10 Princess resort hotels in the US, Mexico and Caribbean and Stakis will pick up the five UK Metropole hotels. To raise the cash for the Metropole acquisition Stakis could sell its provincial casinos to, possibly, London Clubs International.

Sir Rocco is known to have raised considerable City backing for his hotel comeback. He has bid Granada for parts of his old empire but failed to clinch a deal.

The luxury Princess hotels should meet his ambitions for an upmarket hotel chain. He could find the more functional, conference style Metropole hotels less enticing but Stakis, with a widely spread hotel chain, would have no difficulty accommodating them.

Lonrho hopes to raise between pounds 600m and pounds 800m from a flotation. Such an inflow would all but wipe out its borrowings. If present talks reach a successful conclusion it could possibly pull in even more cash with less hardship.

Lonrho, down in the dumps recently, perked up 5.5p to 169p; Stakis was little changed at 108p.

The rest of the stock market was again in full cry with the FT-SE 100 index breaking through 3,900 points in some style. Footsie closed 16.4 points higher at a peak of 3,907.5. It has risen more than 200 points this month.

And the supporting FT-SE 250 index kept up its remorseless progress. It gained 22.3 to 4,424.8, its 18th winning session. Lower interest rate hopes again provided the major spur although the improving economic outlook also helped sentiment.

Turnover, as befits the Friday before an August Bank Holiday, was low with traders not on holiday escaping from the square mile long before the market closed.

BSkyB was the best performing blue chip, hitting 578p with a 21p gain. British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce flew higher as Airbus Industrie won a $900m order from the US United Airlines. BAe, with 20 per cent of Airbus, rose 19p to 992p and Rolls-Royce, which estimates its share of the contract at pounds 55m, 6.5p to 225.5p.

Allied Domecq, as the Bass takeover of its half-owned Carlsberg-Tetley brewing operation, edged towards completion, gained 10.5p to 450p. Bass improved 5p to 842p.

EMI's first deal as an independent entity - the acquisition of a 10 per cent interest in the GWR radio group - lifted the shares 5p to 1,466p. GWR, buying full control of Classic FM as part of the EMI link, gained 7p to 206p.

Thorn, the other half of the split, rallied 5p to 394p. Nick Bubb at Mees Pierson described the group as a "much improved business" which has moved away from its traditional television/video rental base towards furniture and rent-to-buy. "The proposition is downmarket but at least its different", he says. He estimates this year's profits at pounds 192m and next year's at pounds 210m.

Tullow Oil rose 7.5p to 107.5p. It confirmed it is about to start testing for gas in Pakistan. The group recently raised pounds 30m from shareholders to pay for its Pakistan and Syrian developments.

Ivernia West, as planning permission was granted for its Lisheen zinc/lead mine in Tipperary, edged forward 2p to 90p.

Photo-Me International, the photo booth group, gained 19p to 161p. The shares scored from the Government's identity cards move although profits, due next week, are expected to be lower. Trafficmaster, making traffic monitoring systems, reversed 33p to 324p following a pounds 16.1m rights issue.

Tex, an engineer, added 5p to 76p. It returned to the dividend list with a 2p a share payment. Profit was pounds 323,000; around pounds 1m is expected this year.

Prism Rail remained stationary at 265p. It is the preferred bidder for the South Wales & West and Cardiff Railway franchises. The company already has the London, Tilbury and Southend franchise.

Colleagues, the marketing group with the dubious distinction of two profit warnings in a fortnight, fell 7p to 91p. The shares were around 250p before problems surfaced.

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