Market Report: Ocado shares shaft new finance boss

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The Independent Online

Let's hope for Ocado's sake that Duncan Tatton-Brown is better at making money than he's shown this week. Unveiled as the online grocer's new finance chief on Tuesday, it was revealed yesterday that on the same day he and his wife had between them snapped up 100,000 of his new employer's shares.

The problem was that, having bought in at an average price of 99.24p a share, the Tatton-Browns will have watched in horror as the stock promptly dropped 20 per cent on Tuesday following its interim results. Ocado has been falling ever since, and there was no let-up yesterday, with its latest fall of 5.5p to 79.5p meaning the couple have already lost close to £20,000 from their investment.

As well as continuing unpopularity following the admission it was unable to get a boost from the Diamond Jubilee while it was also cautious over the Olympics, the company was hit by fears of a step-up in competition from Tesco.

The UK's largest supermarket (up 2.05p to 311.85p) recently unveiled plans to treble the number of stores where shoppers can pick up their groceries after having made the order online.

Calling it "an aggressive statement of intent", Oriel Securities' analysts warned that Ocado "cannot compete" with the new service. "It is clear that as time goes on, more and more stores will offer this service," they said, adding that there was "absolutely no reason to hold the shares". They could have told Mr and Mrs Tatton-Brown a few days earlier...

Having rallied on Wednesday, the FTSE 100 was knocked back 30.86 points to 5,493.06 as the European Union summit got underway in Brussels.

The banks were causing much of the damage, as Barclays plummeted 30.45p to 165.6p. When the £290m Libor fine was first revealed earlier in the week its share price barely moved, but yesterday was a different story. Its peers were also dragged down, with Royal Bank of Scotland smacked back 26.7p to 206.4p and Lloyds 1.22p worse off at 29.94p.

The water groups provided some refreshment after France's Veolia Environnement announced the sale of its UK water business for $1.9bn (£1.2bn). Liberum Capital's analysts worked out that, when translated, the premium paid put a 2,200p take-out valuation on Severn Trent, often at the centre of takeover speculation.

They calculated it would be 920p for United Utilities and 900p for Pennon, who were lifted 15.5p to 674.5p and 8.5p to 777p. Severn Trent, meanwhile, climbed 22p to 1645p as its announcement of a joint venture with construction firm Costain (3p higher at 211p) was also well-received.

GlaxoSmithKline has recently been the subject of rumours it could be considering a possible move for US pharmaceuticals group BioMarin, and yesterday market gossips returned to the topic. They suggested Stateside peers Biogen or Amgen may also be interested, although traders were playing down the vague speculation, which claimed a possible price for BioMarin could be $60 a pop.

Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline dropped 24p to 1,446p as Liberum's Naresh Chouhan suggested investors should sell the stock in order to snap up shares in AstraZeneca (29.5p stronger at 2,828.5p).

Ladbrokes was in a bad way at the bottom of the FTSE 250. The bookie was pegged back 21.1p to 152.7p after it unveiled a profits warning for its digital business.

The return of bid talk didn't help Heritage Oil or Soco. The pair were among the energy explorers chosen by Singer Capital Markets as potential takeover targets, although they still slipped 3.3p to 116.8p and 1.3p to 279p. However, Premier Oil was another highlighted and it crept up 2.6p to 330.7p.

Down among the drillers on Aim, the Cove Energy takeover saga was still dragging on thanks to Royal Dutch Shell. The oil giant, which edged up 19p to 2,204p, announced it was extending the deadline for its 220p-a-share offer for the Mozambique-focused group, giving itself more time to decide whether it wants to trump the 240p a share offered by Thailand's PTT. Punters clearly aren't worried – Cove ticked up another 3.25p to 267p.

The stars were clearly aligned for Tarot card reader New Trend Lifestyle. The group enjoyed its first day of trading by rising 1p to 9p.