Market Report: TV takeover predictions lead to star performers

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COMMUNICATION shares romped ahead again as the stock market joyously anticipated a wave of frenzied takeover activity.

Yorkshire-Tyne Tees TV was the star performer, at one point stretching 22p to 198p. The shares closed at 192p, a two-day gain of 36p.

In the turmoil engulfing the industry, Yorkshire, expected to announce a pounds 9.5m loss later this month, is likely to follow Central Independent TV and surrender its independence.

It is the most vulnerable of the TV contractors. The shares have been weak as its trading outlook has deteriorated, caused by huge discounts on advertising sales.

LWT (Holdings), struggling against a bid from Granada, and Pearson, the banking and publishing conglomerate, each have 14 per cent of Yorkshire.

As part of its bid to head off the Granada assault, LWT is holding talks with Yorkshire that could lead to a deal. There is also talk of a defensive alliance embracing LWT, Yorkshire and Anglia TV.

Reports the alliance talks had broken down were denied but the market view is that LWT could be forced into a 'poison pill' bid for Yorkshire.

And should Yorkshire survive the current upheaval it will fall victim to Pearson when the barriers restricting cross-media ownership go.

Pearson has a significant but minority stake in BSkyB satellite TV and takes in the Thames TV operation. It wants to increase its TV side.

Granada, helped by a strong buy recommendation from UBS, gained 18p to 539p and LWT rose 20p to 626p. Carlton Communications, acquiring Central, improved 12p to 959p.

On the publishing pitch, Pearson gained 11p to 630p, United Newspapers 22p to 676p and Daily Mail Trust 250p to pounds 114.

Others pulled up in the excitement included Capital Radio, 20p to 350p, and Thorn EMI, 21p to 1,011p. MAI, the ambitious and cash-rich group controlling Meridian TV, gained 5p to 276p.

BT was ruffled by worries about the looming second call on its partly paid shares and the US expansion plans of its MCI associate.

Elsewhere trading underlined the growing split between blue chips and the rest of the pack.

The FT-SE 100 index sagged 29.3 points to 3,379.2 as the second line FT-SE 250 index achieved a new closing record, up 21 at 3,820.4. At one time it was up 26.1.

US selling of the March futures on fears of higher transatlantic interest rates, modest selling by UK fund managers and negative noises from Morgan Stanley, the US house, did the blue chip damage.

But it appeared that UK managers were indulging in simple switching, using their blue chip rewards to pick up what they regarded as undervalued second liners.

Drugs were back in the sick bay assailed by a variety of influences. A move by the Italians to cut spending on drugs was the most significant factor.

The Rome government is making drugs more difficult to obtain and Italy's health spending will shrink dramatically. SmithKline Beecham, thought to have the biggest Italian connection, fell 15p to 391p.

Glaxo Holdings, with the added discomforts of a Goldman Sachs sell recommendation and new US patent worries, lost 23p to 693p. But Fisons, up 4p to 139p, continued to benefit from Zeneca bid hopes.

Imperial Chemical Industries slumped 25p to 763p as Smith New Court and SG Warburg joined the downgrading round. SNC has cut its 1993 forecast by pounds 20m to pounds 300m. For this year it has lowered by pounds 30m to pounds 400m and for next by pounds 40m to pounds 700m. Warburg, still rating the shares a buy, has moved this year's estimate from pounds 500m to pounds 450m.

Courtaulds jumped 18p to 507p as, for the first time in four years, James Capel put the shares on its buy list.

Food retailers bounced as reports began to filter through of strong Christmas sales. Asda, in brisk trading, improved 3p to 60.25 and Tesco 6p to 222p.

John Marshall at London Wall Equities likes four food manufacturers - Dalgety, Hazlewood Foods, Northern Foods and United Biscuits.

P&O dipped 19p to 619p as Stena Sealink cut its cross-Channel ferry prices; NFC advanced 8p to 244p, anticipating its rights take-up will return the transport group to membership of the FT- SE 100 index.

Hepworth, the building materials group, rose 14p to 447p with Seaq putting turnover at 33 million, reflecting a loan stock conversion handled by Cazenove.

Westland climbed 9p to 265p on its pounds 150m Brazilian helicopter order, with Rolls-Royce, also a beneficiary, up 4.5p at 168p.

Riva Group, a till maker, lost 7p to 18p following the year's first profit warning. Aminex, ahead of presentations in London and Dublin, gained 4p to 81p.

In busy trading the FT-SE 100 index lost 29.3 points to 3,379.2 but the FT-SE 250 index rose 21 to 3,820.4. Turnover was 907.7 million with 38,010 bargains. The account ends on 14 January with settlement on 24 January. Gilts gave ground.

London International Group, the struggling condom maker and photoprocessor, has, like Fisons, attracted the attention of a US recovery fund. Its fan is Oakmark International, little known here but apparently appreciated in the US. It has followed LIG in recent months and built a 5.58 per cent shareholding. LIG shares gained 7p to 147p.

Boddington Group, the pub owner, fell 5p to 280p. Kleinwort Benson, anticipating the enforced Whitbread share disposal, said sell but Barclays de Zoete Wedd, cutting its forecast, still likes the shares. It has lowered this year's estimate from pounds 29.5m to pounds 28m and next from pounds 33.9m to pounds 33.5m. The Whitbread sale follows the brewer's merger with its investment arm.