Overnight fall in New York sends Footsie into retreat

MARKET REPORT
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The Independent Online
Shares gave ground for the fourth day running with Footsie falling below 4,900 points. The blue-chip index lost a further 50.4; it has fallen almost 140 this week.

Selling has been relatively light. With buyers seemingly content to sit on the sidelines the stock market is beginning to look exceedingly tired although many observers believe shares will recover their buoyancy. This week's ragged retreat follows a strong performance last week when Footsie achieved a 176.7 advance.

New York's overnight fall and poor opening did much of yesterday's damage. Further weakness in the Far East was another telling influence.

Another heavy round of company results was generally well received with BTR, the latest to turn its back on the conglomerate image, leading blue chips with a 15p (after 22.5p) gain to 234p. The latest buzz phrase, returning shareholder value, featured high in its presentation.

The company promised to return cash raised in its bid to become a focused engineering group to shareholders, presumably through a buy-back or special dividend. It was enough to even drag the bombed-out warrants higher.

The batch which can be switched into BTR shares this year at 258p more than doubled to 2.75p and next year's warrants, with an exercise price of 405p, jumped 0.75p to 2.75p.

EMI was another to buck the trend. Like BTR, its shares were recently bumping along at a 12-month low.

The showbiz group's performance, up 6p at 583.5p, is an indirect result of the planned Grand Metropolitan/Guinness merger.

The market is convinced that if the mammoth deal goes through, it will put intense pressure on Allied Domecq and Seagram, the Canadian drinks giant, to take defensive action, possibly by merging their spirit operations.

Such a get-together could lead to a separately quoted company with Allied and Seagram raising cash by selling some of their interest.

Allied would probably pour the money into its retail operations and Seagram, which has caught the showbiz bug, could decide to descend on EMI, a disappointing share since last year's demerger from the Thorn rental group.

To pile on the agony for former Thorn EMI shareholders the Thorn side has turned in an even weaker display, falling from 402.5p to 166p.

National Westminster Bank added 10p to 834p on the story it would sell its securities arm to Commerzbank and P&O continued to score from Bovis flotation plans, up 6.5p to 671.5p.

The latest outbreak of Far Eastern worries hit HSBC 69.5p to 1,912p and Standard Chartered 11.5p to 787.5p. Far Eastern investment trusts were other casualties of the Pacific storm. Burmah Castrol, one of the Footsie casualties, fell 22p to 1,070.5p.

Britton, the packaging group, rose 4.5p to 75.5p (with some deals at 80p) on speculation of a bid. Waste Recycling, the David Williams vehicle, was little changed at 278.5p. It is raising pounds 34.4m to buy a quarrying and waste disposal business which should be earnings-enhancing in its first year, Stockbroker Killik believe WR shares are a buy.

Psion continued to plug in from its Philips link, gaining 24p to 443.5p, and Biocompatibles International managed a token rally, up 25p to 575p.

Gibbon, the printing ink group, held at 199.5p although sales and profits are running "well ahead" of last year.

Kwik Save, the discount chain, firmed to 331p; the shares were 843p in 1994. PDFM, the ubiquitous fund manager, has nudged its stake to 22 per cent.

Ramco Energy dipped 7.5p to 1,155p on the surprise intervention of the Ukrainian state oil company in its agreed bid for JKX Oil & Gas. The Ukrainians now have 11.67 per cent of JKX, acquired through stockbroker T Hoare & Co, and Ramco and JKX are anxious to discover their intentions. It is thought the Ukrainians have moved to prevent Ramco getting full control and may be prepared to buy more shares; JKX held at 52p.

International Greetings, a giftware and greeting card group, remained at 357.5p after Anders Hedlund, joint chief executive, sold 124,670 shares; his family interest is now 72.47 per cent. Johnston Press director Edward Wood sold 215,000 shares and has 0.2 per cent. The shares shaded 2.5p to 222.5p.

Share buy-backs were evident. Rank picked up 6 million at 350p; Tomkins 1 million at 317p and Perkins Foods 135,000 at 95p.

Zinc prospects lifted Ennex International 1.5p to 34.75p, a peak.

Taking Stock

r Peterhouse, the old Shorco, returned to market with a flourish. Suspended at 73.5p in July and then placed at 80p, the shares closed at 100p. Shorco, providing steel security cabins, merged with unquoted Totty Construction and Lowfields Technology, an environment monitoring business, to create Peterhouse.

r Petrel Resources, the latest John Teeling vehicle, is paying pounds 1.3m in cash and shares for two African interests of privately owned Heritage Oil & Gas. The deal gives Heritage, which has extensive African interests, a 22.5 per cent stake in Petrel. It is likely that other Heritage interests will be pumped into Petrel, up 0.5p to 13.5p on Ofex.

r Recruitment group PSD climbed 20.5p to 320.5p, a peak; the shares were floated at 220p in February.

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