Market Report: Zeneca temperature rises on drugs takeover hopes

IS ZENECA, the drugs spin-off from Imperial Chemical Industries, about to be caught up in the American drugs takeover fever?

As the rest of the stock market wilted, the shares jumped 15p to 838p with, it was said, a US buyer seeking shares.

Zeneca arrived on the market in May last year. The shares have been as low as 595p but are beginning to challenge their high, reached in January. At the interim stage Zeneca's profits were lower and although some profit forecasts have been pulled back there are hopes it will achieve about pounds 765m for the year, up from pounds 627m.

The rest of the drugs sector failed to share Zeneca's exuberance. Fisons tumbled 15p to 135p following its results and Wellcome, which has attracted takeover speculation, eased 5p to 688p.

American influences were not confined to drug shares. They were responsible for dragging blue chips off their knees. Before New York came to their rescue leading shares were signalling anxious distress on talk of more interest rate increases this year.

At one time the FT-SE 100 index was below the crucial 3,100 level, nursing a 42.7-point fall. Although trading was thin, talk flowed of agonising retreats with Footsie crashing towards the 2,800 some observers still nurse as their year-end target.

The bears had reckoned without New York. A smaller-than- expected advance in consumer prices was seen as reducing the pressure for higher US interest rates and the Dow Jones Average shot ahead.

Although many experts think the market should be less responsive to New York, there is no doubt the Americans still call the tune.

As if they were clinging to Wall Street's coat-tails, blue chips meekly reflected the US advance and the index deficit was quickly cut to 7.4 at 3,121.4. But the recovery was selective with second- and third-liners failing to join the rally.

Company results contributed to the early unease. Kingfisher's interim figures were predictably disappointing and analysts scrambled to cut year-end forecasts.

Smith New Court retreated from pounds 350m to pounds 330m; London Wall Equities moved from pounds 335m to pounds 325m. At one time Kingfisher was down 21p at 469p, closing 3p lower at 487p.

Building and related shares remained weak on interest rate worries. Barratt Developments lost 8p to 189p and Berkeley 15p to 405p.

Forte dipped 3p to 228p as fears of a cash call continued to circulate. Although its deeper involvement at the Savoy is, at least in the short term, unlikely to be costly, its bid to take over the Meridien hotel chain could involve an outlay of more than pounds 230m. Savoy 'A' closed 15p off at 925p.

Bass, the brewing group, did not impress with a reshaping of its Holiday Inn hotel operation, falling 12p to 557p.

BAA, the airports group, rose 10p to 493p as Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull and Kleinwort Benson were encouraged by the latest traffic figures.

Share buy-backs continued on the electricity pitch, although prices tended to drift. Norweb picked up 5 million shares at 795p, against a 794p close.

TI, the engineer, held at 373p as Mannesmann, the German group, pushed its stake to a shade over 9 per cent.

British Steel lost 3.5p to 148.5p. It has spent pounds 85m increasing its stake in Avesta, a Sheffield stainless steel group, by 9.9 per cent to 49.9 per cent.

DRS Data & Research was the day's main profit casualty. The shares plunged 56p to 40p when it reported profits of pounds 1.48m, down from pounds 1.54m. The group floated in May at 110p.

Disappointing figures from Crockfords, the casino group, lowered the shares 5p to 146p with London Clubs off 6p to 257p in sympathy.

Oxford Molecular returned following the pounds 5.2m takeover of a US group, Intelligenetics, which specialises in DNA developments.

The shares, floated in April at 80p, ended at 68p against the 64p suspension price. They touched 74p.

Capital Shopping Centres, one of the year's new issue flops, held at 208p. Nick Bubb at Morgan Stanley believes the shares should be nudging 270p by the end of next year after the first rent reviews at its Lakeside (Thurrock) shopping centre. He forecasts profits of pounds 35m this year with pounds 43m next.

The shares were floated at 230p in March.

The FT-SE 100 index ended 7.4 points down at 3,121.4, with the supporting FT-SE 250 index off 34.2 at 3,679.1. Turnover was 587.2 million shares with 25,093 bargains recorded. Government stocks were up to pounds 1 4 higher.

Falcon Holdings, a distributor of valves and pipes which used to be called Walker & Staff, edged ahead 5p to 130p in a narrow market on whispers of corporate action. Some believe a reverse takeover could be in the offing. The low-profile group suffered a sharp profit reverse last year and felt obliged to cut its dividend. Before the setback its shares touched 150p.

The battle of Waterglade, the little property group, has ended with the chairman, David Cunningham, and other directors being replaced by rebels. The shares rose 0.75p to 3.25p. The outgoing board will collect compensation. A rights issue, perhaps pounds 6m, is expected. Mr Cunningham said: 'We didn't mind handing over control providing the underwriting capacity was assured.'

(Graph omitted)

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