Market Report: Takeover bid talk boosts C&W as gossips dial in

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The Independent Online
TELECOM groups Cable and Wireless and Orange survived a blue- chip somersault which killed what, at one time, seemed likely to be to another record-breaking run.

Takeover gossips dialled into Cable; Orange continued to enjoy Thursday's upbeat trading statement and renewed speculation about British Aerospace's 21.1 per cent shareholding.

Cable shares climbed 25p to 700, a closing peak, in brisk trading. Optimistic talk of an 800p a share offer orchestrated by Lazard Freres, the merchant bank, was behind the activity.

The telecoms group was said to be in the sights of Continental interests; Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom, operating in tandem, were identified as the most likely predators.

Rumours have often swirled around Cable. It is believed to have held talks with a number of overseas group and on at least one occasion got round the negotiating with BT. If Cable did attract a bid it could prompt BT, still seeking a deal after the American MCI group got away, to mount a counter strike.

Orange, up 21p at 381p, felt the warmth of analytical upgrades. But that BAe stake, which logic would suggest must be shortly on the move, was an important influence. It is a peripheral interest of BAe and a tantalising attraction to a veritable network of communication groups.

Colt Telecom, a takeover candidate for much of its short-quoted life, jumped 72.5p to 1,502.5p.

At one time Footsie was up 46.4 points. By mid-afternoon it was off 36.7, closing down 12.5 at 5,782.3. Supporting indices, once again, blissfully ignored the discomfort of their peers. The mid cap index gained 20.7 to a 5,357.6 peak and the small cap indicator also went to a new high, up 18.5 to 2,554.9.

British Airway's fell 25.5p to 574p after confirming it was considering a proposal from National Express for a joint bid to run the Eurostar rail service. NE advanced 6.5p to 781.5p. Its year's results are due next week; around pounds 81m is expected, up from pounds 63.9m. Railtrack was another on the right line, up 31p to 971p on its possible channel rail link involvement.

Ahead of next week's maiden results Diageo fell 23p to 675p. The international spirits giant held what was regarded as a cautious investment presentation in New York on Thursday. Great Universal Stores shaded 11.5p to 773.5p after an $831m bid for the shares it did not own in Metromail, a US information company.

BAe and Rolls-Royce climbed on the lifting of the ceilings on foreign owned shares to 49.5 per cent. Rolls scored the biggest percentage gain, up 6.5p to 275p; BAe rose 16p to 1,951p.

Elementis, the chemical group which used to be called Harrisons & Crosfield, led the small cap progress, improving 8.5p to 124.5p. The pub chain Greenalls stirred 28.5p higher to 470p and WH Smith, for so long in the doldrums, rose 31.5p to 541p, highest for more than five years.

Bid action was evident on the undercards. Media Business gained 30.5p to 132p after saying it was in talks which could lead to a bid; London & Metropolitan, a property group, gained 2.5p to 12.25p as Grantchester appeared with an pounds 6.3m agreed share exchange offer.

The toy maker Hornby was suspended for much of the session after climbing 82p to 282.5p at one time. Trading resumed at 257.5p, up 57p on the day when the company said it was not talking "with any party" about a takeover or sale. There were early suggestions that large investors had been approached with a 300p-a-share offer.

Oriel, the insurance group, edged ahead 2.5p to 95p after it disclosed talks were on which could lead to bids for all or parts of the business. A 6 per cent stake changed hands recently.

Rage, the computer games group, rose 3.25p to 14.25p in a remarkable 27.1 million turnover; it confirmed a deal to produce a new game for the Sony Playstation.

Limit, the, the Lloyd's insurance group, held at 178.5p after a George Soros trust said it had sold 5.6 million shares at 179p.

Worries about British Biotech, following Thursday's suspension of Dr Andrew Millar, director of clinical research, continued to damage the shares, off a further 1.5p to 68.5p.

Verity, with a wafer thin sound system jumped 7.25p to a 86.5p peak on hopes of more licensing agreements are about to be clinched.