Market Report: Reshuffle puts sparkle into food and drink shares

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The Independent Online
KENNETH CLARKE'S elevation to Chancellor produced an upswing for food and drink shares.

The beerage had been under pressure following poor results as the recession and the Government's Beer Orders took their toll. Food retailers suffered from worries about margin pressures, the seemingly frantic superstore expansion and increasing competition.

But yesterday they outperformed, with the sneaking suspicion that the new Chancellor will look favourably on further interest rate cuts helping their revival.

Guinness, despite more profit downgradings, led the drinks advance, up 15p at 475p. Even Bass, which has been as flat as a neglected pint since rolling out poor figures last week, managed a 2p gain to 460p.

Among the regionals, Mansfield Brewery and Morland (strong results) made headway.

On the supermarket front Tesco rose 7.5p to 220.5p, although today's yearly shareholders' meeting is not expected to be particularly encouraging.

J Sainsbury gained 12p to 487p and Argyll Group improved 8.5p to 336.5p. Asda put on 1p to 70.5p.

Building and building materials should also have enjoyed the arrival of a Chancellor seen as likely to cut interest rates. But NatWest Securities had already performed a demolition job, pushing many shares lower. Wednesday's uninspiring statement from Blue Circle Industries and government caution on the building recovery prompted NatWest's unease.

Among those to give ground were Barratt Developments, Redland and Tarmac.

The high-flying property sector also failed to attract interest rate comfort as the pounds 199m Hammerson rights issue hit the market. Hammerson follows other property lights such as Land Securities, Brixton Estates and Slough Estates on the cash-call bandwagon and more rights are expected. MEPC, down 10p at 435p, could be the next candidate.

Hammerson ordinary lost 7p to 373p but the 'A' gained 4p to 344p.

Olives Properties, which on Wednesday produced a reshaping exercise including a pounds 2.55m rights issue, added 12p to 46p.

Television shares performed on hopes of more takeover action. Anglia TV gained 9p to 296p.

Merchant banks also made headway, inspired by SG Warburg's results. Warburg gained 23p to 717p.

The contrasting action left the FT-SE 100 index up 8.4 points at 2,855.3 and halted the record-breaking progress of the FT-SE 250 index, down 5.9 at 3,169.6.

Cable and Wireless slipped to 743p as its Hongkong Telecom off- shoot produced profits in line with expectations. Vodafone Group edged forward 3.5p to 431p. The US house Smith Barney Harris Upham made confident noises.

Suter, the mini-conglomerate stalking the engineer James Wilkes, advanced 9p to 153p following a cheerful trading statement. Wilkes eased 1p to 80p as Suter's stake was lifted to 16.45 per cent.

Lonrho retreated 7p to 115p after the BBC programme on Tiny Rowland.

Boots shrugged off the Monopolies and Mergers Commission probe into contact lens solutions, concentrating on a Barclays de Zoete Wedd buy recommendation. The shares rose 8p to 437p.

National Power jumped 11p to 346p on the dividend increase. PowerGen, expected to follow its example, rose 11.5p to 358p.

Manchester United slipped 2p to 440p. Marathon Asset Management, which disclosed a 3.7 per cent interest on Wednesday, is not part of a US oil group. It is an independent UK fund manager handling funds of pounds 500m for a variety of pension funds and investment trusts. Marathon has held shares in Manchester United for some time.

Allied Radio held at 7.5p. There is talk that a Continental group is on the verge of taking a significant stake. It already has at least one large European investor. The company, once Third Mile Investments, operates radio stations in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire.

The French restructuring at Thorntons, the chocolate group, melted the shares 26p to 144p. At one time they were down to 125p.

TLS Range, a vehicle rental group, rose 5p to 18p after David Yeomans, chairman, reported improved trading. Last year the company reduced its loss from pounds 259,000 to pounds 190,000. TLS arrived on the market in 1989 at 60p a share.

The FT-SE 100 index put on 8.4 points to 2,855.3 but the FT-SE 250 index lost 5.9 to 3,169.6. Volume was 660.5 million shares with 27,255 bargains. The account ends on 4 June with settlement on 14 June. Government stocks were little changed.

MTM, the chemicals group, has emerged as a classic shell following its revamping exercise, some speculators believe. The shares rose 3p to 14.5p, a two-day advance of 6.5p. The group, after a traumatic time, appears to have satisfied its bankers, who collectively have 29.9 per cent. It has cash to spend on its remaining chemicals business and is thought to be keen to invest in high-tech operations.

Expect lively dealings today in Mosaic Investments as the shares make a return from an eight-month suspension. The mini-conglomerate called a halt at 60p per share because it was unable to meet the terms of an earn-out agreement on one of its numerous acquisitions. There have been strong rumours that Greg Hutchings, of Tomkins, is looking to sell his 9 per cent holding in the company.

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