Market Report: Shares' would-be saviour steams in from the Gulf

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THE ultra-discreet Abu Dhabi Investment Authority seems to be making a determined bid to lift the stock market out of its deep depression.

In the past two days, as most leading investors have at best stayed on the sidelines, the ADIA has proclaimed its faith in UK equities by buying two out- of-favour stocks.

The investment arm of the Gulf state yesterday announced a 5.7 per cent interest in Tiphook, the container leasing business which failed to impress the market with its figures on Monday.

The ADIA's involvement in Tiphook followed determined buying of glassmaker Pilkington. In the past month the Gulf state, so closely involved in the Bank of Credit & Commerce International disaster, has topped up its Pilkington stake three times and is now sitting on just over 7 per cent.

Tiphook shares, down sharply to 330p after its figures, rose 18p to 365p. Pilks edged ahead 1p to 119p.

Both shares bucked the market trend. The FT-SE share index was at one time down 39.1 points as hopes of lower interest rates once again evaporated and New York showed signs of renewed jitters.

Realisation that the market was oversold and a suspicion that it was being forced to dance to the market-makers' tune produced something of a late recovery and Footsie ended 21.1 lower at 2,472.6.

With the recession lingering and company earnings and dividends under increasing pressure, Footsie seems destined to fall further. The Wellcome flotation, with the pounds 3bn cash raised due to be pumped back into the market, could, some believe, be the desperately sought event which could turn the market.

There is a growing belief that, so long as there is not a sudden upheaval in world markets, the massive issue, due to close late this month, will succeed. Wellcome shaded 6p to 894p.

But the response to the share sale of The Telegraph provided scant comfort for Wellcome bulls. The shares traded down to 283p against the 325p issue price.

Profit downgradings once again took their toll. BTR was the latest to be hit by Smith New Court. The shares fell 17p at one time, closing down 12p at 450p.

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SNC has cut this year's forecast from pounds 1.05bn to pounds 950m and next from pounds 1.25bn to pounds 1.11bn. Guinness, P & O and MB-Caradon were among others to feel the impact of analytical axes.

Northern Foods, an SNC downgrading casualty on Tuesday, continued to give ground, losing 12p to 596p.

Mining group RTZ fell 23p to 586p. It was not a downgrading which did the damage, but a poorly received investment presentation in Tokyo.

Stores were unsettled by the European Court judgment that the UK's Sunday trading ban did not breach EC laws. The decision strengthens the position of local councils opposing Sunday opening.

Boots and Kingfisher were among the stores hit. All the leading supermarket groups gave grouind.

Forte remained unsettled by its failure to sell its catering division. Fears that it will soon be tempted into a rights issue added to the gloom, pushing the shares 4p lower to 169p.

Compass Group, which came near to completing a deal with Forte, lost another 11p to 421p. The shares have slumped 68p since the deal was called off.

British Petroleum drifted 3p lower to 211p. Negative comments, thought to be from UBS Phillips & Drew, took their toll. Suggestions that the group could be tempted into selling some of its highly lucrative Far Eastern assets are going the rounds.

BM Group had another difficult session, falling 17p to 103p. The sharp reduction in the Gartmore Investment Management stake added to the unease surrounding the group.

Boustead, the Far Eastern trader, held at 29.5p. A mystery shareholder, one Tan Lian Seng, has picked up 500,000 shares. They have not, it is thought, been registered under Algbank Nominees, which cloaks a one million Lian Seng shareholding.

Last month Jack Chia-MPH, a Far Eastern group, mounted a bid for Boustead. It intends to retain the share listing.

Shares were back in the doldrums yesterday. The FT-SE index was at one time down 39.1 points. It closed 21.1 lower at 2,472.6. The FT 30-share index was lowered 15.1 points to 1,897.9. Trading volume was again low. Seaq put share turnover at 396.1 million, with 21,787 bargains recorded. Government stocks were little changed

Developments are expected at Ossory Estates, the property group. There is talk that a consortium is being put together to build a share stake and then possibly seek management control. Ossory is one of the few small property groups to remain in the black. Half-time profits were, however, down from pounds 4m to pounds 1.5m. The shares slipped 1p to 12.5p.

It looks as though the jockeying for positions at Courtyard Leisure, the London wine bar group, will soon be over. TW Consultants and friends have acquired more shares and claim to represent 26.4 per cent of the equity. The TW consortium is expected to launch a bid soon. It sees Courtyard as a vehicle for a leisure industry build-up. The shares are 23p.

Kelt Energy should confirm that its revival is continuing when it reports today. The oil group, which last year seemed to be near extinction with losses of pounds 154m, should reveal that it has edged back into profit. Kelt is now free of debt, with a strong balance sheet, and should be able to signal further progress. The shares held at 10p against a year's high of 17p.