Market Report: Rankin's gloom goes down badly with brewers

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The Independent Online
SIR Alick Rankin's suggestion that the recession is biting much more fiercely into northern England and Scotland has caught the stock market on the hop. The chairman of Scottish & Newcastle, the brewing and holiday centres group, checked Thursday's advance with his gloomy statement to shareholders.

His comments continued to take their toll yesterday with brewers, once regarded as recession-proof, and leisure shares again suffering.

Scottish, with analysts cutting profit expectations, fell another 7p to 383p, making a 36p decline since Sir Alick's speech. The shares are below the takeover price offered by Fosters Brewing, the Australian group, when it made its controversial and unsuccessful bid four years ago.

Allied-Lyons fell 5p to 551p and Bass 14p to 474p. Greene King, the East Anglian group, which was also gloomy on Thursday, retreated 10p to 412p, a two- day decline of 31p.

Whitbread 'A' resisted the retreat, largely due to Smith New Court suggesting the shares looked cheap. They rose 5p to 378p.

On the leisure front Rank Organisation was hit because it too has holiday centres. Downgradings were also in the air. Carr Kitcat & Aitken lowered this year's forecast by pounds 5m to pounds 245m and next by pounds 15m to pounds 285m. The shares fell 15p to 504p.

Thorn EMI, on expectations that its compact disc margins will be sliced, fell 13p to 666p.

Builders and building materials shares once again attracted bearish stories. The timber importer Meyer International slumped 31p to 204p on continuing talk of a profit downgrade. An attempt to sell a small parcel of shares, thought to be 100,000, merely piled on the agony. The building materials group Hepworth lost 16p to 264p and the window frame maker Heywood Williams was cut 20p to 139p.

But drug shares were on the march. Paul Woodhouse at SNC said: 'The sector currently appears excellent value on any time-frame and is, we believe, just setting forth on another long-term bull phase.'

Glaxo Holdings put on 12p to 722p and Wellcome 17p at 800p. British Biotechnology, which came to market at 425p last month, celebrated its inclusion in the FT Actuaries index with a 20p gain to 452p.

The public relations group Shandwick, unchanged at 5p, and Union Discount, down 3p at 40p, have been removed.

Profit downgrades continued to torment food manufactuers. Northern Foods, where Hoare Govett is negative, fell 7p to 226p. Ranks Hovis McDougall lost 5p to 141p.

The stock market remained under the whip of interest rates and foreign exchange movements. After a seesaw session the FT-SE share index ended 1.0 points higher at 2,312.6.

Once again trading was thin with the holiday weekend helping to reduce investment interest. Electricity shares, spurred by the unbundling of the package, had another powerful run.

BAA, the airports group, was lowered by profit downgradings and the growing tension in the Gulf. The shares fell 13p to 632p. Gulf influences also hit British Airways, down 5p at 224p.

The insurance broker Sedgwick, under pressure since its dividend cut, gained 8p to 122p. Transamerica Corporation, a US financial group, appears to have taken advantage of the share slide and increased its shareholding.

It has acquired 1.5 million shares and now has 25.47 per cent of the capital and 20.46 per cent of the votes.

HunterPrint, where Sir Ian MacGregor has lost the chairmanship, eased 0.5p to 5.5p as talk of possible cash-raising circulated.

British Gas rose O5p to 241.5p. Carr cut its profit forecast by pounds 150m to pounds 1bn. American investors again appeared to be nibbling at British Petroleum, up 1p to 193.5p.

Lucas Industries fell 7p to 83p, a year's low. The bleak outlook for car manufactuers and dividend fears are haunting the group.

Deeply troubled Regalian Properties edged ahead 0.25p to 2.5p. A 9.6 million share trade, thought to be by Barclays de Zoete Wedd and probably a bed and breakfast exercise, went through at 0.75p a share. The shares were more than 100p last year. In June heavy provisions forced a pounds 26.8m loss.

Silvermines, an engineering group, held at 26p. The ubiquitous investor Bob Morton has lifted his shareholding to just over 6 per cent by picking up 196,000 shares.

The architect CMW Group continued to reflect director share-buying, improving another 3p to 24p. The shares were 7p last week.

A see-saw session ended with the FT-SE share index up 1.0 point to 2,312.6. It ranged between a 13.2 fall and a 3.0 gain as market-makers attempted to keep level positions ahead of the holiday weekend. The FT 30 share index finished 8.0 down at 1,680.6. Trading was thin with turnover of 339.5 million shares and 17,194 bargains.

TVS Entertainment, one of the TV franchise losers, has attracted Alan J Hirschfield, a US entertainment entrepreneur. He has built a 5.25 per cent shareholding. Has he discovered hidden value? Some are convinced he is stake-building because he believes the group's troubled MTM film group is doing better than most realise. TVS shares rose 0.5p to 16p.

Barcom, the old Venture Plant, has 'copious cash flow, sound balance sheet and proven management', stockbroker Panmure Gordon believes. It expects profits of pounds 650,000 this year and a dividend of 1.25p, with a surge to pounds 3m and a 3.75p dividend forecast for next year. Barcom, unchanged at 93p yesterday, has long-term contracts with low- risk customers, says PG.

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