Market Report: Transatlantic interest gives boost to Zeneca

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The Independent Online
ZENECA, the drug side of the Imperial Chemical Industries split, is at last feeling the benefit of its international investment roadshows.

The shares arrived on the Stock Exchange's specially created grey market two weeks ago. Since then they have endured their own version of cold turkey as the price has slipped away in often uninterested trading.

But after its European presentations Zeneca is now deep into its US investment programme, ahead of the official start of share dealings next week.

Late on Tuesday the shares suddenly perked up. Yesterday they made further progress with, quite clearly, US institutional investors prepared to move in, offering much-needed relief to worried UK underwriters.

The shares rose 9.5p to 639.5p, a two-day gain of 17.5p. The nil paid rights improved a further 5p to 41p, up 11p.

It seems US institutions feel less inhibited by the restrictions of the unofficial market than their UK counterparts.

As domestic institutions have held back, citing their inability to deal in the volume they require, Zeneca shares have looked forlorn and unwanted. But the transatlantic presentations appear to have touched a receptive chord, producing the sudden buying interest.

The stock market ducked and dived and, as measured by the FT- SE 100 index, ended 9.2 points higher at 2,846.9. The modest success of the Government's latest pounds 3bn gilt auction helped. The auction of 7.75 per cent Treasury stock 2006 was accepted on yields of about 8.39 per cent.

Reuters, the information group, was a star performer, advancing 44p to 1,352p. The US investment house Goldman Sachs was said to have upgraded and emerged as a big buyer of the shares.

US influences also helped Tiphook, the container leasing group. The shares put on 12p to 311p as the Bank of New York disclosed that its ADR holdings represented 25.15 per cent of the capital.

Barclays, the banking group, edged forward 2p to 459p as Andrew Buxton, its controversial chairman and chief executive, embarked on a series of investment presentations. His activities appear to have prompted a number of profit upgrades.

Guinness fell 7p to 460p after an uninspiring shareholders' meeting. LVMH, the French champagne and cognac house, which has a 24 per cent cross-shareholding with Guinness, is due to make presentations in London next month.

On the building materials pitch Evered Bardon continues to attract interest. After touching 58p the shares ended a shade firmer at 56p. Talk persists of a takeover strike. The shares have edged up from 51.5p this week. They were as low as 34p earlier this year.

An overseas bid is regarded as the most likely possibility. Evered has quarry and concrete interests.

Manchester United held at 442p, despite the appearance of a new fan - Marathon Asset Management, an offshoot of Marathon, the big American oil and gas operation.

Invergordon Distillers gave back some of Tuesday's late rise, ending 9p lower at 288p. The market remains on edge about a bid from American Brands. But there is speculation that Invergordon, already Scotland's biggest grain whisky distiller, is contemplating entering the bidding for North British Distillery, a grain producer where takeover marauders hover. Any offer could cost Invergordon more than pounds 100m.

North West Water launched the water profits season with some enthusiasm, showing a 9 per cent dividend increase. NWW improved 7p to 487p. Others were dragged higher, with Thames Water up 7p to 508p.

Oils were firm. British Petroleum rose 5.5p to 312p as it confirmed the sale of its consumer products divisions for pounds 250m. Aminex's astounding progress continued, up another 3.25p to 21p. The company said it could not explain the share strength.

National Power, ahead of figures today, gained 3p to 335p. There are hopes of a special dividend. After Tuesday's excitement BT shaded 2p to 425.5p and Cable and Wireless 2p to 747p

Kleen-E-Ze rose 18p to 162p. The shares have climbed 21p since it was announced on Tuesday that results would be produced next week. Hollas, the textile group with a joint mail-order venture with Kleen-E- Ze, added 1.5p to 20p.

Shares edged ahead with the FT-SE 100 index up 9.2 points to 2,846.9. The FT-SE 250 index hit another peak, up 2.8 to 3,175.5. Volume was 626.8 million shares with 27,434 bargains. The account ends on 4 June with settlement on 14 June. Gilts made progress following the auction.

Olives Properties, the paper mill turned property company, gained 3p to 34p as Tony Grant, former head of Ladbroke Group's US property business, came on board. He and a colleague have paid Michael Kent, who owns half the shares following a proxy battle in 1988, 31p a share for a 29.99 per cent stake and are raising pounds 2.55m for property acquisitions through a four-for-three rights issue at 28p.

Takeover action could be about to break out again at Etam, the fashion retailer. The shares rose 10p to 244p. The South African-influenced Oceana Consolidated has 34.4 per cent following an unsuccessful takeover attempt. Oceana could be prepared to withdraw. The suggestion is that it is on the verge of selling to a group prepared, as the takeover code would demand, to mount a full bid.

Private client stockbrokers expect to reap rich rewards from BT3. Walker, Crips, Weddle, Beck - already servicing 25,000 clients generating commission of pounds 1m a year for its Investorlink execution-only service - has high hopes of bringing on board another 5,000 through BT3. Phillip Securities of Singapore has confirmed it has taken a 40 per cent interest in the stockbroker, founded in 1914.

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