SHARES AND MARKET REPORT: Broker note adds shine to steel maker Corus

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The Independent Online
CORUS LED blue chips higher yesterday as Credit Suisse First Boston urged investors to pile into the stock assuring them that the best is yet to come for the steel industry.

The Swiss broker was also busy placing a line of 55 million shares on behalf of a client, which it did successfully. The seller is believed to have been Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov, for whom CSFB arranged the disposal of a bulk of his Corus share holding back in December.

Whoever picked up the 58p shares being sold by CSFB in the morning will certainly be happy with themselves this weekend, given Corus finished the day 2.75p higher at 60.25p. And, if you believe the Swiss broker, there is more upside to come. "Calling the top of the steel cycle would appear to be premature. In our view, we could be about to pass through the trough of a mini-cycle in the US and Europe, with the best still to come," it said.

Although many in the investment community expect steel prices to start to fall during the second half of the year, the broker is convinced this will not happen. CSFB said: "Steel prices collapse when the export market is deeply liquid, triggered by a global de-stocking or a major regional crisis. We see neither of these on the horizon".

Also supporting Corus yesterday were ultra-bullish comments from the management of its peer ThyssenKrupp. Jost Massenberg, an executive at the German group, told a German newspaper that he expects steel prices to rise sharply in the coming months and indicated that such is that demand the company faces for its products at present that it is struggling to satisfy it.

Meanwhile, a minor drama surrounded the last five minutes of FTSE 100 trading and the half hour of its close, as a technical problem wiped about 40 points from the closing level of the index. This was quickly straightened out by FTSE, which compiles the index. So for the record, the FTSE 100 finished the day 44.2 points higher at 5,044.2. Bulls were in control of stocks throughout the session as merger and acquisition rumours again swept the Square Mile

Cadbury Schweppes leapt 18.75p to 518p on rumours of a bid for the UK group from a larger player across the Atlantic. According to the talk, either Kraft or Hershey are looking at Cadbury with a view to swallowing the company. But more sober players were sceptical about the speculation. Analysts covering the industry noted that Kraft is unlikely to embark on a major acquisition at present as the company is in the middle of a significant restructuring. They also pointed out that Hershey is considerably smaller than Cadbury.

Again on the takeover tack, Rank rose 3.5p to 289p as punters talked of a possible break-up bid for the leisure group. Woolworths ticked 0.75p higher at 49.75p on hopes that the value retailer will soon receive a fresh private equity offer. Analysts believe that any offer will have to be above the 60p if it is to be successful. Meanwhile, Somerfield was unchanged at 187p despite whispers that a counter-offer to Baugur's 190p bid may be on the cards.

Moss Bros gained 4p to 125.5p after Kevin Stanford, the retail entrepreneur, raised his stake in the group to 29.2 per cent. Punters have been betting on Moss Bros being bought-out since Mr Stanford acquired Shami Ahmed's 22.6 per cent holding back in July.

Reed Elsevier dropped 2.75p to 445.25p after ABN Amro downgraded the publisher to "hold" from "add" and set a 500p price target. The move by the Dutch broker precedes full-year results from Reed next week. ABN explained its more cautious stance by warning that Reed is likely to execute hefty acquisitions during 2005, possibly spending up to pounds 600m on deals, the quality of which, obviously, is at present difficult to predict.

Renewable Energy Holdings had its maiden day of trading on AIM. The group raised pounds 10m via a 50p placing by the broker Corporate Synergy. It boasts John Baker, formerly the chief executive of National Power, as chairman and said it will use the cash raised to invest in proven renewable energy technologies.

Also debuting on AIM was Ukrproduct, which became the first Ukrainian company to list on the London Stock Exchange. The dairy products group, chaired by the former England rugby coach Jack Rowell, raised pounds 5m from the sale of shares at 53.5p, and plans to use the cash on new equipment and on improving its distribution network.

Finally, Walker Crips Weddle Beck soared 34.5p to 201.5p after announcing the pounds 2.8m acquisition of G&E Investment Services. As a result of the deal, believed to be highly earnings enhacing, Stephen Bailey, a director at the stock broker, bought 33,000 shares.

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