Market Report: Rover snatches limelight from Trafalgar House

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The Independent Online
THE controversial Trafalgar House rights auction failed to generate the excitement many had expected.

Robert Fleming and Swiss Bank Corporation are believed to have sold the 30 million rump of convertible preference shares at a modest premium, with Trafalgar's ordinary shares up 5p at 109p.

The rights achieved a 91.5 per cent take-up and normally Trafalgar's two stockbrokers, Cazenove and UBS, would have expected to be given the privilege of placing the residue of the pounds 355m issue among their institutional clients.

But in these innovative days the perk was snatched from them by the two merchant bankers' decision to conduct an auction. The banks imported a method used in the Eurobond market that they thought would obtain an improved price for the unclaimed rights shares.

On the surface the stock market atmosphere should have been receptive to the revolutionary move. Leading shares were in rampant form with the FT-SE 100 share index claiming yet another peak - up 44.4 points to 3,491.8 - in busy trading.

The futures-driven market was inspired by the dramatic rebound in Tokyo and the relentless pursuit of records by New York.

But British Aerospace was the share of the day, soaring 55p to 499p following the surprise pounds 800m sale of its majority shareholding in the Rover car group to Germany's BMW.

The deal drove many car dealers higher, with Lex Service putting on 20p to 549p and T Cowie 5p to 342p.

But the Vickers engineering group fell 6p to 176p. Its Rolls- Royce cars subsidiary had often been rumoured as a takeover target for BMW.

J Sainsbury was another under the weather, down 9p to 384p as the market continued to fret about Friday's subdued trading statement. Barclays de Zoete Wedd rates the shares a buy.

Bowater, the packaging and paper group, fell 15p to 487p as James Capel moved its recommendation from buy to hold.

Wellcome, the drugs group, had an uncomfortable time following reports that its Retrovir anti- Aids drug is criticised in a soon- to-be published report. The shares, at one time down 30p, ended 13p lower at 662p.

The day's profit warning emerged from the Christian Salvesen transport group, down 62p at 314p.

BT, figures next week, remained in demand, up a further 7p to 474.5p with the partly-paid adding 7.5p to 216.5p.

Reuters finished up 21p at 1,994p. Many believe the group will be under intense pressure to make a one-for-one share bonus if the price should hold above 2,000p. Year's results are due next week and there are hopes that a sharp profit advance - the market is looking for pounds 440m against pounds 382.2m - will be accompanied by a new slimline look for the shares.

Bass, the brewing group, was firm at 566p as Henderson Crosthwaite said it was 'showing signs of drawing away from its rivals at the head of the very competitive beer market'. Henderson is also pushing Rank Organisation. It expects profits this year to reach pounds 340m with pounds 400m next year. The shares gained 24p to 1,098p.

Broadcasting shares had a lively session with the GWR radio group leading the pack, up 107p to 920p. The expectation that Classic FM, the classical music station in which GWR has a 17 per cent interest, is about to announce record audience figures spurred the rise.

Financials continued to reflect the buoyant stock market with Govett up a further 23p to 351p and Jupiter Tyndall 16p at 392p. Invesco, following the settlement of its litigation with the pensioners of Mirror Group Newspapers, advanced 17p to 244p.

The power generators were uneasy ahead of this week's expected decision whether they should be subjected to a Monopolies and Mergers Commission investigation. But they managed to recover from their low points. National Power closed 2.5p lower at 482.5p and PowerGen 3p at 562p.

Oils were firm, with Shell up 9p at 734p.

Forte, the hotel group, shrugged off a sell recommendation from NatWest Securities, ending 4p higher at 269.5p.

Fringe shares again scored some impressive percentage gains. Carlisle Group, the loss-making property surveyor, rose 6.5p to 50.5p. Entrepreneurial investor Nigel Wray, who has made a fortune from shell companies, is leading a restructuring, pumping pounds 3m into the group. He will have a 40 per cent interest. In April the shares were 15.5p.

Boddington, the pubs group, shaded to 277p as Mercury Asset Management said it had picked up 1.5 million shares, lifting its stake to 13.27 per cent.

Manchester United, on hopes of a unique cups and league treble, reached 603p, a new peak. But struggling Tottenham Hotspur conceded 4p to 89p.

Caird, the struggling pollution control group, jumped 2.5p to 11.75p. It said in October it planned a restructuring and there are rumours that a package is about to be announced. A debt- for-equity deal and a cash-raising exercise are likely. Once a high- flyer, the shares touched 234p. In September 1990, Caird fought off a 100p a share bid from Severn Trent, the water group.

National Home Loans Holdings is at last back in the black, sending the shares 4p higher to 20p. The preference shares were also up 4p to 47.5p. The mortgage group said that it was 'trading profitably' at the yearly shareholders' meeting. The revival follows a year's loss of pounds 32.9m which followed a pounds 159m deficit. NHLH has also sharply reduced its debt.

The FT-SE 100 index surged to another peak, up 44.4 points to 3,491.8. But the FT-SE 250 index was more subdued, up 18.5 to 4,084.3. Turnover was 992.8 million shares from 45,757 deals. The account ends on 11 February with settlement on 21 February.

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