Market Report: Relief drives Eurotunnel to lead shares' fightback

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The Independent Online
ANOTHER topsy-turvy day saw shares continuing their fightback with Eurotunnel, seemingly in deep difficulties last week, leading the charge.

Since its rights issue cliffhanger Eurotunnel shares have staged a remarkable revival. Yesterday they climbed 27p to 363p and the nil paid rights 17p to 60p, making a 20 per cent-plus gain since the long, tortuous cash-call negotiations ended.

The advance has, of course, been scored at a time when the stock market has been under intense pressure. It reflects relief that a deal was finally hammered out and Eurotunnel managed to get the cash it so desperately needed, if at a higher price than many had expected.

The market had started the day in fine style, building on Thursday's rally. Then came US payroll figures; and consternation. A 23.6 point gain by the FT- SE 100 index was transformed into a 12.4 deficit but second thoughts about those US figures, with New York shares pointing the way, left the index 17 higher at 2,997.8 at the close.

So the market's last three-week trading account before the switch to rolling settlement managed to end on a moderately high note. Rolling settlement starts in July.

But the account has certainly been a hair-raising affair, with three days of utter demoralisation. Overall the Footsie fell 120.5 points over the three weeks.

Hanson moved ahead 5.5p to 258.25p as a New York share tipster made bullish noises. His comments, however, followed more cautious views in London, with some questioning the conglomerate's dividend policy.

PowerGen advanced 5p to 466.5p anticipating results, due to be announced on Thursday. The market is looking for about pounds 477m against pounds 425m, with a heady dividend increase. NatWest Securities expects a year's payment of 12.4p, up from 10.5p.

Drink shares moved ahead, reflecting hopes of a summertime thirst, with Scottish & Newcastle up 6p to 516p and Whitbread 8p to 544p.

But an investment presentation to analysts had little impact at Grand Metropolitan, up 2p to 436p.

The Publisher Harrington Kilbride was the day's main casualty, crashing 66p to 68p after it increased provisions by pounds 3m and put in doubt the payment of the signalled 3.2p dividend.

Barcom, a plant hire group, slumped 30p to 24p after producing interim losses and Acorn Computers ended 16p lower at 76p following a sharp profits fall.

Keen interest developed in Lasmo, down 2p at 142p, as stories circulated that hostile bidder Enterprise Oil was attempting to put together a higher offer, or at least a cash alternative. Enterprise dropped 11p to 382p.

Chime Communications, the public relations group headed by Sir Tim Bell, had a subdued start to quoted life. The shares ended at 36p against the 48p suspension price. The business was pumped into Chartwell, a carpet tile group, which had risen to 48p ahead of the deal.

Micro Focus, the computer group, advanced another 70p to 1,248p as confidence continued to return following investment presentations. Dale Electric gained 4p to 71p after it disclosed a takeover approach and higher- than-expected losses.

British Steel's decision to fight the EU's cartel fine was rewarded with a 2.75p gain to 140.5p and Lonrho's review of its African operations pushed the shares 2.5p higher to 141p.

The surprise departure of Wellcome's finance director, John Precious, took the shares 13p lower to 543p. Amersham International, year's figures next week, improved 19p to 937p. The market is looking for pounds 42.5m, up from pounds 26.3m.

Euro Disney continued to command support following the arrival of its Arab prince, gaining 21p to 386p.

Cadbury Schweppes edged forward 1.5p to 456.5p as Carl Short at Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull said buy. He points out that the Camelot lottery winner, where Cadbury has a 22.5 per cent interest, is considering a share flotation that could leave Cadbury sitting on a pounds 146m profit.

Mirror Group Newspapers was strong, gaining 10p to 164p. Daily Mail & General Trust 'A' shares retreated 35p to 1,165p following the pounds 92.85m cash acquisition of T Bailey Forman, the Nottingham newspaper group.

Rhino, the computer games retailer, managed to pull out of its fall, recovering 3p to 29p. Wilton, a fledgling media operation, held at 3.25p in busy trading.

Another pub chain is coming to the 535 market. Shares of Surrey Free Inns, with outlets in the South-east, are due to arrive later this month. The group, headed by a former Grand Metropolitan executive, Bill Hannon, has received a cash injection from John Labatt, the Canadian brewer building a British pubs spread. It is pumping in pounds 500,000 for convertible preference shares.

MTM, the former chemical group that nearly collapsed, is winning increasing support. Stockbroker BWD Rensburg has switched to a firm buy recommendation after a meeting with the company, which is now involved in minerals processing. It had to sell its chemical and related interests to survive. The shares are 75p with BWD looking for profits of pounds 2.1m.

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