Market Report: Six dropped in biggest Footsie shake-up

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The Independent Online
SIX shares are to be dropped from the FT-SE index in the biggest shake-up since what has evolved into the blue chip investment club began eight years ago.

It could, however, be the last change of any significance. The new FT-SE index covering 350 shares is due to make its bow soon, and together with the new sector indices could well herald the end of Footsie as a key measurement of the stock market.

The six newcomers are TI Group, kicked out of the FT 30-share index in 1984, Scottish Hydro-Electric, Southern Electric, Burmah Castrol, De La Rue and Kwik Save Group.

The inclusion of two more utilities can only strengthen fears that Footsie has become a hostage to utility shares and no longer reflects the whole market.

Many market men, planning for the hoped-for economic recovery, believe most of the shares that will benefit from any upturn have been forced out of the index. Therefore punting on the Footsie index is no longer a realistic recovery play.

The latest casualties, such as Pilkington, British Aerospace and RMC Group, merely underline the growing distrust of Footsie and reinforce the view that new indices are necessary.

Willis Corroon, the insurance broker, Royal Insurance and the food and furniture group Hillsdown Holdings are the other stocks leaving Footsie.

In another thin trading session the FT-SE index ended 10.2 points lower. The new-fangled 350 index closed 5.8 down at 1,119.2. The sector indices confirmed that building materials and properties were again under pressure.

All eyes were on the foreign exchange markets with the swirling, often contradictory indications about interest rates and revaluations encouraging many to sit on the sidelines.

The latest batch of results merely deepened the gloom. If the figures themselves were tolerable, the accompanying analysts' meetings merely resurrected the torment and any share strength quickly evaporated.

Even Boddington Group, with a 50 per cent profit advance, managed only a 3p gain to 168p. English China Clays, down 75p to 371p, and Hillsdown, 23p lower at 83p, were among the leading results casualties.

Imperial Chemical Industries was at one time down 43p as County NatWest worried that the signalled demerger could lead to a rights call and lower dividends. The shares closed at 1,055, down 7p.

London International Group, the condom maker, edged forward 2p to 163p. James Capel and SG Warburg felt the shares were oversold following Tuesday's sharp downgrading by UBS Phillips & Drew.

Ranks Hovis McDougall, the food group, rose 5p to 145p as Carr Kitcat & Aitken drew attention to its dividend cover and recovery potential and others wondered about a takeover bid.

British Airways was another to ignore the downward tendency, gaining 4.5p to 261p, largely reflecting US buying.

Fisons rebounded 10p to 160p as those prepared to bank on a takeover bid, presumably from Astra of Sweden, got the upper hand. Medeva was unchanged at 186p, despite a near 1 per cent cut to 14 per cent by US shareholders.

Thorn EMI fell a further 9p to 670p. Robert Fleming Securities worries about a profits slowdown on the music front, but County put the shares back on its buy list because of underperformance since June.

Guinness, interim figures next week, eased 4p to 532p as Nomura made cautious noises. The Japanese securities house expects a 3 per cent advance to pounds 360m and feels the year's forecast could be reduced.

Cable and Wireless remained under pressure, down 15p at 511p. USWest, the American communications group, denied suggestions it was about to terminate its link with C&W and switch to Alcatel of France. BT recovered 6p to 341p.

Estates & General, the property group, had another difficult session following the pounds 9.4m loss. The shares, down 8p on Tuesday, lost a further 10p to 9p.

Oil minor Teredo held at 9p. David Rowlands' consortium, with 12.68 per cent, looks like a boarding party from the old Sovereign Oil & Gas, taken over last year by Finland's Neste Oy.

The FT-SE share index ended 10.2 points down at 2,327.5. At one time it was off 16.1 points. The FT 30-share index was lowered 13.9 to 1,696.7. Turnover just topped 400 million shares with only 15,399 bargains completed. Government stocks, as sterling remained under pressure, suffered losses of up to pounds 3/4.

A shareholder revolt is brewing at Harmony Leisure, the pubs group. A boarding party, led by hotel man Andrew Martyr, is calling for a shareholders' meeting to elect new directors. Besides Mr Martyr they would include Simon Lynch of the HH Finch and Bill Bentley's pub and restaurant family. Harmony shares held at 5.5p. Five years ago they topped 100p.

About 6 per cent of the capital of defence contractor ML Holdings changed hands yesterday. The shares shaded 1p to 15p. The trade was at 12p. The group suffered a sharp setback last year, but there are hopes it will haul itself back into profits this year. New chief executive Howard Grant is due to move in next month. The shares could have been sold by TT Group.

Housebuilder Avonside has performed better than some of its rivals. The spin-off from Cannon Street Investments yesterday announced interim profits of pounds 2.8m and a dividend of 1.8p. The shares, offered at 106p, fell 3.5p to 74.5p. There were indications an institutional meeting at UBS Phillips & Drew went down moderately well and there is talk of full-year's profit of pounds 6m.

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