Market Report: Tiphook setting records with its US supporters

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The Independent Online
TIPHOOK, the container leasing group that is no stranger to controversy, is continuing to win US support.

Through Bank of New York American Depository Receipts, 36.17 per cent of Tiphook's capital is now held by US investors. Not only is such a representation a record for the container group, it is also the highest US level ever reported at a leading UK company.

Tiphook achieved a US ADR presence in October 1991, when its transatlantic support was little more than a twinkle in New York's investment eye. In the following months US investors have piled in, moving from a near standing start with such determination that they have surprised, it would appear, even the Tiphook management.

The group's leasing operations have failed to win unanimous support in the City. Worries about the industry, which has produced a string of failures, have tended to cloud the London investment view and left the group open to bear stories.

But the Tiphook mentality appears to support the view that the Americans are much more appreciative of leasing than their British counterparts. And the most spectacular part of the US build-up has occurred at a time when the group has found itself under pressure over alleged insider trading claims. In May the shares fell ahead of a profits warning, prompting calls for an inquiry.

But US appetites appear to have been whetted by one Paul Ehrlichman, of an American investment house called Brandywine Asset Management. He is on record as forecasting that earnings could double in the next six to 12 months. And there is evidence that Mr Ehrlichman, or at least his supporters, have decided to chase Tiphook shares.

Their buying, however, has not had a profound impact on the Tiphook price, with many UK investors apparently happy to sell into the wave of US support. Two years ago the shares almost reached 600p. During the US run they have hit a 387p high but stuck at 328p yesterday.

The rest of the stock market managed to edge ahead without a great deal of conviction. The FT-SE 100 index moved 9.6 points higher, ending a three-day decline, to close at 2,848.1.

The FT-SE 250 index was back on the up-track, scoring a 13.1-point improvement to 3,232.1.

Granada again provided much of the action. The shares fell 4p to 417p as it confirmed it was still pursuing LWT (Holdings), the London TV group. It has duly lifted its stake to 19.9 per cent, although LWT points out that on a fully diluted basis the shareholding is 17.5 per cent. LWT preferred shares rose 1p to 483p.

TSB, the banking group, rose 3p to 193p. Stories of the sale of its troublesome Hill Samuel merchant banking side continue to circulate. A deal with BAT Industries is thought to be likely, with Hill Samuel commanding a surprisingly high price tag of pounds 500m.

Once the merchant banking knot is cut TSB will emerge as the most attractive avenue for any group seeking an involvement in British retail banking.

Another suggestion is that HSBC, proud owner of the Midland Bank, sees TSB as the opportunity to strengthen its UK position.

The old takeover favourite United Biscuits was weak as analysts downgraded. Hoare Govett was one to take the knife to its forecast. It cut its current year estimate from pounds 215m to pounds 205m. The shares, with Cadbury Schweppes seemingly out of the takeover frame, fell 7p to 377p.

Blue Circle Industries was another caught on the analytical circuit. The cement producer was said to be meeting stockbrokers and upgradings seemed to be the result. The shares rose 4p to 247p.

Oils were mixed, but Barclays de Zoete Wedd helped Shell 5p higher to 516p.

Rolls-Royce, under threat of foreign share sales, held at 141p. Carr Kitcat & Aitken expects profits of only pounds 60m this year and pounds 40m next.

Celsis, the healthcare group, made a disappointing debut. Against hopes of 135p the shares managed only 117p and ended at 101p, just a shade above the flotation level. Trading was brisk, with Seaq putting volume at almost 10 million shares.

MMI, the corporate and financial group, returned to market after the takeovers of video and staff magazine businesses. Suspended at 25p, the shares closed at 30.5p.

Sears, following the sale of its Asprey stake, was little changed at 98.5p. Asprey rose 5p to 293p.

Housebuilders, already ruffled by indications that the expected recovery was faltering, had to contend with a profit warning from Edmond Holdings, down 4.5p to 15p.

Greycoat, as the Postel rescue duly appeared, fell 2.5p to 17p. There was the stench of burnt fingers on the preference front as the shares, after Monday's sharp gain, fell 12.75p to 39p.

Greenalls Group, the pub retailer, held at 358p. It says its pounds 200m offer for its rival J A Devenish, regarded by many observers as exceedingly generous, will not be dilutive even in the first year. Benefits of size in the increasingly competitive drinks industry will become more evident.

The former stockbroker Luke Johnson, son of Paul, has built a dedicated fan club. His decision to buy a 4.76 per cent stake in Chartwell, a carpet and tile group, has had a dramatic impact on the shares, admittedly a thin market. He moved in at the then market price of 25p. In the two trading days since, the shares have risen to 53p. Mr Johnson has been charged with finding suitable acquisitions.

Stanley Gibbons, the stamp group that nearly two decades ago enjoyed one of the briefest stock market careers on record - it lasted about one hour - is the subject of a takeover bid. Paul Fraser, chairman, has lifted his stake to 44.5 per cent and, under the takeover code, is obliged to bid for the rest of the shares. The Fraser move could indicate Gibbons will soon seek a more lasting market presence.