Mobile phones have ring of confidence despite Wall St; MARKET REPORT
Thursday 03 April 1997
The buzz of excitement was sparked by the latest round of sales figures with three of the top four players reporting strong performances.
Orange, the nation's third-largest mobile group, said its customer base had grown by 109,000 in the first quarter of the year, putting it within hailing distance of the cherished 1 million mark.
The Orange display coincided with One2One, partly owned by Cable & Wireless, producing a better-than-expected advance to 620,000. On Tuesday Vodafone made an encouraging contribution to industry volumes. Only Cellnet, owned by BT and Securicor, has still to reveal first-quarter figures.
Floated at 205p a year ago, Orange edged forward 1.5p to 208.5p after 212p; Cable rose 1.5p to 491.5p and Vodafone moved up 2.5p to 278p. BT, hit hard on Tuesday as worries surfaced of institutional unease over its MCI deal, rallied a little to 430.5p, up 2.5p.
Simon Carrington at Merrill Lynch has a 12-month target of 255p for Orange and sees Vodafone at 300p.
Footsie lost early firmness, ending 11.5 points lower at 4,236.6 as it became apparent New York, at least during London trading, was still hesitant. Tax-selling again accounted for much of the volume.
Banks were mainly lower with fulsome Salomon Brothers' support probably reducing Barclays' fall to 4p at 1,009p. The US investment house believes the "unwarranted decline" from February's 1,216p peak has created a buying opportunity.
General Electric Co was the blue-chip front runner, gaining 7.5p to 383p on reports it has bid for the French government's controlling stake in Thomson-CSF, the electronics giant. The British group still has to overcome counter-offers from French parties.
BG, the old British Gas, rose 3p to 164.5p in busy trading on hopes of a favourable deal with its Ofgas regulator.
Rank gained 7p to 427.5p on the long-awaited film sale and Newcastle Utd made a restrained debut, kicking off with a 5p premium at 140p. MEPC felll 12.5p to 472.5p on lack of takeover action.
Tesco managed a 1p advance to 347p as NatWest Securities offered support and the same house gave a further lift to EMI, the showbiz group, up 16p to 1,160p.
On Demand Information, the electronic publisher, rose 7.5p to 42.5p on talk of a large deal and an upbeat trading statement next week. The company seemed surprised about the rumoured statement. On Demand shares have been friendless since early last year when they hit 217.5p. They were 28.5p last month.
Drew Scientific, another former high-flier, seems to be recapturing its old enthusiasm. The shares rose 15p to 109.5p, highest for three years. Private investors have alighted on the health care group since last week's upbeat statement and institutional share placing at 52p. Cortecs International, the drugs hopeful, was little changed at 262.5p after Lehman Brothers said "take some profits".
Verity, with a wafer-thin sound system, jumped 5.5p to 54p on a licensing link with a US group and Trafficmaster moved ahead 42p to 307p after its system was selected for installation on part of the German autobahn network.
Premier Oil rose 2.5p to 39.5p, seemingly on support from Credit Lyonnaise Laing which has put a 48p valuation on the shares. Other oil second-liners were in fine fettle with British Borneo Petroleum Syndicate gushing 54.5p to 1,545p on expected developments at its Gulf of Mexico projects. But British Petroleum suffered from lower crude prices, off 9.5p at 696p.
Kenwood Appliances, the kettle maker, added 6p to 155p; last month the shares were bumping along at a 130p low. It looks vulnerable with profits for the year ending this month likely to be down from pounds 15.6m to pounds 4.5m. Rival Pifco, which has already made tentative approaches, could be tempted to return. The shares were 253.5p six months ago.
Pathfinder Properties, a former Business Expansion Scheme company floated last week at 17.5p, gained 11.5p to 35p, partly on hopes other BES ventures will be drawn into its fold.
Arcadian International, the hotel group, improved 5.5p to 55.5p. It has linked with Sir Terence Conran to develop the City's Great Eastern Hotel which will close this month and re-open in 1999. The hotel will be enlarged and banqueting and conference facilities created.
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