Market Report: Telewest share sale beams ray of sunshine into a dull trading day

TELEWEST BEAMED a ray of excitement in a dull market yesterday amid talk that the French conglomerate Vivendi had sold part of its stake in the cable group.

The stock was one of the day's best blue-chips, rising 28p to 342.75p, but it was the volume figure of more than 12 million shares which suggested that something was afoot.

With the overall market's turnover ending at an anaemic 720 million, the Telewest's high volume sparked talk that something was afoot. Eagle- eyed dealers spotted that one trade of 10 million shares at 333p, possibly executed by Goldman Sachs, accounted for most of Telewest's volume.

They muttered that the chunky trade was a part-sale of the Vivendi holding. The French water-to-telecoms group received the shares as payment for its stake in General Cable, the TV operator recently acquired by Telewest.

However, the Gallic behemoth was never considered a long-term holder because of its more pressing media interests in Canal+ and BSkyB.

If yesterday's whispers are to be believed, the cunning French could have chosen the pre-Christmas lull to get rid of half of their holding at a good price. Another sale could follow soon. The identity of the buyer was a mystery but market sages said that it was likely to be a bunch of City institutions or even a rival such as the NTL-owned Cable & Wireless Communications, 11p higher to 834.5p.

Additional rumours suggested that a positive announcement on Telewest's takeover of TV programme-maker Flextech, unchanged at 1,160p, could arrive in the New Year.

Remaining blue-chips were dead quiet as Christmas shopping and pre-festive drinks dominated traders' minds. The FTSE 100 missed its 6,742.2 all-time high by a whisker, rising 21.1 to 6,728.6 as a wobbly Wall Street and lack of buying hampered progress.

However, the undercard had a field day, as the retail punters continued to pile in.The midcap rose 32.1 to 6,362.9 - another record - while the Small Cap soared 21.8 to a best-ever 3,041.9.

Few large moves were significant. Media stocks were well-bid, with Pearson, rising 95p to a record 1,910p on renewed hopes of a spin-off of its Internet operations and vague bid whispers. Carlton Communications rose 27p to 596p amid growing talk that a rival could bid for it rather than its target United News & Media, down 17p to 765p.

Software high-flier Sage celebrated being voted the best-performing stock of the 1990s with a 78p rise to a record 769.5p. One word of caution, the star of the 1980s was the disgraced Polly Peck. Sage also said that it could bid for smaller rival Pegasus, 51p higher to 485p after suggestions that shareholder Bob Morton could also trump an agreed bid from an Australian outfit.

The 1990s worst performer, the hotel and betting group Hilton, checked out a 5.75p fall to 194.25p. Some stores were in demand. Marks & Spencer firmed another 7p to 284.75p amid growing talk of a venture-capital backed bid. Supermarket chain Somerfield bagged a 7.75p rise to 94.5p on rumours that a sale of its underperforming stores, possibly to Scandinavian group Netto, is close. Rehashed talk of a strike from Archie Norman's Knutsford, unchanged at 232.5p, was also heard.

Tech and telecom stocks were propelled higher by another rip-roaring performance overnight on Nasdaq. Mooted bid target COLT Telecom rang up a 129p rise to 3,018p. Marconi, the old GEC, soared 79.5p to 1,048p on renewed talk of a large contract win. Palm-top computer maker Psion surged 288p to 2398p, while FTSE 100 newcomer CMG jumped 186p to 4685p. Scoot.com firmed 1.5p to 151.5p after confirming its tie-up with Internet provider LineOne. But wonderstock ARM Holding, another recent blue-chip, fell 73p to 3,939p on profit-taking. Telecom giant Vodafone AirTouch lost 1.75p to 296.75p despite talk of shareholder support for its Mannesmann bid.

The banks bounced back from recent weakness. Abbey National, up 8p to 968p, was boosted by renewed talk of a bid, possibly from Lloyds TSB, 7.5p higher to 743.5p.

Talk of tough trading and mild selling in low volume sent pest control giant Rentokil 13p lower to 216.75p and insurer Prudential 51p down to 1,106p. The stationery group WH Smith, down 10p to 470p, was also hit by vague talk of a profit warning.

A few bid rumours continued to excite the midcappers. Bombed-out utility Hyder gushed 18.25p higher to 280p on vague talk of a foreign strike, just like chemical group British Vita, up 13p to 236p. Bus group Arriva stalled at 230p despite on-going talk of a bid from National Express, 43p lower to 692p, or even Stagecoach, 4.25p up to 163.5p. The minnows had the usual dose of web mania. Internet investor netvest.com soared 107.5p to 342.5p in good volume on hopes of new deal. Rival Underwriting & Subscriptions, up 1p to 51.5p, is tipped to be the next one to soar. AIM newcomer Internet Indirect, another web investor, rocketed39.5p higher to 44.5p. Baron, the provider of IT solutions to golf clubs and hotels, swung 35p higher to a record 415p after buying an Irish rival.

Support services group Semple Cochrane jumped 19p to 355p on whispers of a bid from a larger rival, possibly WS Atkins, flat at 750p. Metals group Kelsey Industries soared 450p to 1,350p after agreeing a pounds 14-per- share bid from German chemicals company Henkel.

SEAQ VOLUME: 718.5m

SEAQ TRADES: 78,525

GILTS INDEX:104.96 -0.72

f.guerrera@independent.co.uk

THERE IS talk of an important announcement at Silver Shield. Shares in the owner of Swansea City Football rose 1p to 4.25p in large volume yesterday amid whispers of imminent web-related news. Punters believe that Neil McClure, chairman, wants to turn the company into a Net investor. After selling its windscreen business to Kwik-Fit, Silver - soon to be renamed The Ninth Floor - is a cash shell plus a football club and could be used to buy stakes in Internet companies.

THE ELECTRONICS part-maker Densitron yesterday said it did not know why its stock had risen 35p to a record 124p. Some dealers believe they can help solve the mystery. According to the market, Densitron, which makes parts for flat computer screens and mobile phones, is about to win a large contract with a big group. Moreover, there is talk that a well- known City figure has taken a stake in the company and could prepare a plan to boost the share price.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?