Misys stretches to new peak on talk of US connection

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Is Misys, the high-flying software group, about to plug into a new American connection? Stories are circulating that talks are taking place which could lead to a much greater US involvement, perhaps even a bid for full control.

As the stock market moved on, seemingly inevitably, to yet another peak Misys rose 37.5p to an 1,137.5p high, pricing the group at more than pounds 965.5m. Towards the end of last year Misys beefed up its transatlantic operations with two acquisitions, worth pounds 65m. And it has since said it is looking at a further five possible buys, although not necessarily in the US.

But the latest stories do not seem to be concentrating on Misys making another take-over swoop. There is talk of a deeper US involvement either through a company buying into the group or making a bid. No Misys director was available to comment. The shares have been a rewarding investment. Five years ago they were 203p; in the past 12 months the price has gained more than 400p.

Although best levels were not held Footsie stretched to another closing high, up 13.9 points at 4,341. Significantly, though, the supporting FTSE 250 index has failed to retain its record-breaking thrust.

After last month's exuberance it has produced some low-key displays and despite a 19.3-point gain to 4,606 it still remains below its record.

Best-performing blue chip was - again - Smith & Nephew, the health group. Another 8p gain took the price to 196p with thoughts about a possible Unilever strike continuing to create the excitement. Since the market became aware the Anglo-Dutch group was nursing predatory ambitions S&N has climbed 17p, a remarkable run by its standards. Reckitt & Colman, the household goods group also suspected of being a Unilever target, added a further 10.5p to 768p.

Unilever rose 45p to 1,537.5p, reflecting Dutch interest and suggestions it will follow Shell and declare a share split. Asda, rumoured to be planning to move into motorway catering, slipped 0.75p to 114p. It is said to be one of the bidders for Welcome Break, the motorway services chain Granada has undertaken to sell to overcome monopoly objections.

Four possible bidders are said to be in the running with prices of up to pounds 400m mentioned. It is thought unlikely that Whitbread, the brewing group which was keen to buy Welcome Break last year, is one of the four contenders.

Granada advanced 11p to 915.5p. NatWest Securities believe Granada shares have further to run with the Welcome Break sale focusing attention on a "sum of the parts" calculation.

The predicted arrival of Williams Holdings at Chubb Security sent Williams shares crashing out of Footsie as they plunged 37.5p to 300.5p

The group was, therefore, the unexpected casualty of the British Gas demerger with places having to be found for the two parts, BG and Centrica. Redland, the building materials group, had seemed doomed for expulsion before the Williams slide.

However Williams, once it has captured Chubb, should make a quick return. The combined group should be big enough to survive even the demands of the converting mutual societies.

A takeover bid in the rarefied air of investment trusts lifted Pilot Investment Trust 5p to 122p with predator Undervalued Assets 2.75p down at 156.5p.

Hanson improved 1.5p to 92.25p. The final stage in the giant four-way demerger is due to be completed on Monday week when shares in the Energy Group, comprising the Peabody coal business in the US and the old Eastern Electricity, start market life.

Profit warnings took their toll. Cedardata, a computer group, crashed 139p to 123.5p; Dailywin, making watches in Hong Kong, 30.5p to 58.5p and Fieldens, supplying agricultural vehicles, reversed 13p to 52.5p.

Ashurst Technology jumped 29.5p to 95p; it has completed an intriguing transatlantic tie-up with a US baseball bat maker. Under the deal Ashurst's alloys will be used in the production of baseball as well as softball bats. Copyright Promotions, on its Mr Men US deal, gained another 18.5p to 109.5p.

The strange goings-on at Burtonwood Brewery, the 130-year-old Warrington group, lifted the shares to a 205p peak at one time.

The highest recorded deal was at 200p and the shares finished at 203.5p. Jarvis Porter, the drink labels group, put on 3p at 248.5p. Fibernet rose 15p to 184.5p.

Taking Stock

Gabriel Trust, an AIM-listed financial group, has increased its involvement in Ofex traded Chartfield Fund Management. It has acquired a further block of shares, in exchange for its own, lifting its stake to 26.11 per cent. Gabriel, run by David Pearl, aims to supply equity capital to small companies. It first revealed its attraction for Chartfield, which embraces the Waverley unit trusts, in December when it picked up a 14.85 per cent interest. Chartfield is run by Mark Flawn Thomas. Its shares held at 45p; Gabriel rose 1p to 17p.

Wedderburn, the property group that has admitted a "significant" acquisition is near, jumped 5.5p to 24.5p. The story is that it is taking over an oil services company which could transform Wedderburn's outlook.