Seton awakes from its slumbers

Seton Healthcare has been stuck in the doldrums since February, with its shares off 41p from a peak of 499p. The company, however, has recently emerged from a flurry of corporate activity. A placing to raise pounds 23.5m will be used to buy DePuy International for pounds 21.7m.

DePuy, which will be renamed ThackrayCare, sells incontinence products. In the UK, it is the market leader in urinary incontinence sheaths sold on prescription. It adds to Seton's existing business in this area, Simpla Plastics, bought in September 1995. House broker BZW reckons that, in total, incontinence saleswill amount to pounds 20m.

A fine set of results saw sales breach the pounds 100m barrier, coming in at pounds 102.86m - up 21 per cent, with pre-tax profits of pounds 19.81m representing a 21 per cent jump. BZW rates the shares a buy.

Peace is said to have broken out in the great Lottery war, but it could be only a temporary respite. Although the market is dismissive of the value of the Lottery to the UK shareholders - Cadbury Schweppes, De La Rue and Racal - Camelot has a hard time ahead if it is to come out of this debacle unscathed. It has already lost up to pounds 24m in revenues, paying back interest on the shortfall fund to good causes. The value of the stakes, especially to Racal and De La Rue, is not to be sneezed at, whatever utterances Racal's Sir Ernest Harrison may have made about not wanting to be associated with a not-for-profits lottery. The companies have done very well on their lottery investment; it seems short-sighted not to acknowledge that.

The big news in the stock market, however - despite what one may think about the Bank of England's decision to raise interest rates - was Cable & Wireless. After months of speculation, the company eventually confirmed it was to sell off a stake in its Hong Kong Telecom business to the Chinese.

Under the deal China Telecom, a state-owned company, buys a 5.5 per cent stake for pounds 726m. Thereafter, Cable & Wireless will transfer shares at some future date until China Telecom becomes an equal shareholder.

Cable & Wireless stormed ahead, closing up 74.5p at 572p.

In contrast, Railtrack's success is taking its toll on the company after the objections of the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, to its recent rise in profits.

The shares closed the week at 647.5p, down 10.5p on Friday.

However, it is too soon to suppose that Railtrack will be forced on to the backfoot as a result of the Government's interventionist tendencies. Although the shares have come a long way, the long-term prospects still look enticing.

BTR is another company caught in a downswing, but for very different reasons. The share price has hit a new low of 188.5p, its lowest level in five years. There are rumours of mounting pressure for some boardroom changes, although quite what these could achieve is a moot point.

BTR is like one of those unwieldy tankers; turning it around is going to take time, whoever is in charge. Any shareholder who fails to recognise that fact should sell now. But yet more change is unlikely to hasten its recovery.

On directors' share sales and purchases, the retailer Allders had a positive nod from J Pattison, who bought 5,528 shares for his own account at 217p each. The deal takes his holding to 15,000, a sizeable addition.

Directors also waded into the market at the tobacco giant Gallaher Group, with total purchases of 171,000 shares at prices ranging from 272.5p to 280p. The management appears to be unfazed by the prospect of a higher duty on cigarettes, or an end to advertising in the UK.

Of the sales, Dr Chris Evans' decision to reduce his holding in Chiroscience by 800,000 shares to 2.535 million may be the most worrying for the market.

M&G Group, the fund manager, has been going through a tricky time and its woes may be reflected in the decision of director Richard Hughes to sell 1,191 shares at 1,280p each. His stake is reduced to 27,384 shares. M&G is renowned as the value investor par excellence in UK fund management circles.

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