Market Report: Sage spurs technology shares to another peak

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The Independent Online
IT WAS another surging day for information technology shares. Spurred by impressive figures from Sage, the stock market's newest sector hit yet another peak.

The introduction of an FTSE index to cover the computer community has emphasised its runaway appeal which, it could be argued, had previously been concealed.

The IT index was launched at 1,000 points at the start of the year. It closed at 1,549.82.

The index, however, underplays the rampant performance. It was known towards the end of last year that FTSE International, which controls the indices, intended to start an IT subsector. So with fund managers faced with an index against which their IT display would be measured there was an understandable temptation to pile in and increase their computer presence.

Sage gained 45p to 1,387.5p, a peak. Misys improved its challenge for membership of the exclusive Footsie index, gaining 17p to 3,180p. It is now capitalised at around pounds 3.6bn. Micro Focus, with first-quarter figures today, put on 45p to 575p.

The rest of the market moved ahead with Footsie up 16.2 points at 5,972.9 after a rather uneven session. The supporting indices stretched to new highs.

3i, the investment group with a heavy exposure to the small company sector, rose 30p to 630p, a peak, as Credit Suisse First Boston repeated its buy advice and suggested the shares could reach 675p.

Schroders was the best performing Footsie constituent, improving 110p to 1,945p although turnover was modest.

EMI enjoyed another spin, gaining 22p to 556p. The boys in dark glasses are convinced the showbiz group is back in the bid frame. If Seagram, the Canadian group, buys PolyGram for pounds 6bn it can only enhance EMI's value and increase its attraction to other ambitious showbiz groups. Should Seagram fail to clinch a PolyGram deal it may, feeling somewhat contrite, be prepared to lift its signalled 610p offer to nearer the 700p demanded by the EMI camp.

Rolls-Royce, likely to benefit from Singapore Airlines orders tomorrow, was lowered 3.75p to 294p, largely on negative comments from BT Alex.Brown.

Safeway, on results and continuing speculation about Asda's intentions, gained 12p to 376p; Cable and Wireless, another bid candidate, was firm at 679.5p following figures.

Vanguard Medica intrigued the market when its announced the SmithKline Beecham giant had dropped out of a joint migraine venture. SB, with the impact of its infamous fall-out with Glaxo Wellcome still vibrating around the market, abandoned Vanguard because of a possible "conflict of priorities" around the time the Vanguard product would require "substantial marketing and sales force support". Glaxo, of course, has at least two migraine drugs. Could SB be implying it is back in talks with Glaxo? Surely not. Glaxo actually fell 6p to 1,707p but SB firmed 5p to 703.5p.

Vanguard, searching for a new migraine partner, crashed 158.5p to 432.5p, with the warrants off 76p at 80.5p.

It was not the only undercard company spraying around unhappy tidings. Games Workshop, the fantasy toys retailer, bombed 225p to 632.5p following a profits warning. And Churchill China was smashed 50p to 282.5p after saying first-half profits would be "well below" last year's corresponding figure.

Still bids continued to flow. EW Fact jumped 23.5p to 85p after Nord Anglia, the education group, appeared with an agreed share exchange offer.

Engineer Airflow Streamlines gained 43.5p to 206.5p following a takeover approach but How, a facilities management group, was unchanged at 103.5p after an agreed cash and share bid from Tilbury Douglas, the construction group. Trafford Park Estates hardened 14.5p to 174p. Green Property made an approach which is conditional on TPE abandoning its bid for the Barlows property tiddler.

Air London, an air charter broker continued to fly high, rising 22.5p to 400p. The company attempted to kill bid speculation saying it had not received any approach. Director AG Mack sold 200,000 shares at 375p. Hodder Headline, the publisher, improved 30.5p to 278p on bid talk.

Trust Motors added 5p to 178p after bid hopes returned as chief executive Nicholas Barr, who led an abortive management buyout, quit. Easynet rose 12p to 161.5p after Dialog, the on-line information group, sold its 10.4 per cent stake. Arriva, the transport group, edged ahead 4p to 451.5p as SBC Warburg said buy.

Dalgety fattened 7p to 414.5p with analysts filing reports from Nashville, Tennessee, where they are visiting the company's genetic pig improvement facility. After the reshaping the pig business is the only significant trading company left within Dalgety, soon to become PIC International.