Sids miss out on the celebrations as Footsie rises

MARKET REPORT
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Shares greeted five years of Labour rule with a confident dash to a new high. An early defensive markdown was soon outmanoeuvred and although below its best Footsie ended at 4,455.6, up 10.6.

But the nation's army of Sids missed the celebration. The sheer size of the Labour majority prompted fears the new Government may be tempted to take a much tougher line with the privatised groups than indicated.

The stock market had been inclined to dismiss the windfall tax, generally seen as raising not much more than pounds 5bn. But some private investors fear a much bigger imposition; there are also worries the regulatory and environmental climate will worsen.

The relaxed approach before the election had been good for utilities, pushing some to new record levels. So when worries about the Government's intentions started to circulate there was a temptation to snatch profits. Railtrack led the retreat with a 5.4 per cent fall to 436.5p. National Power dimmed 20p to 512.5p and PowerGen 23p to 630.5p. Others hit included Thames Water, off 11.5p to 668p, and Hyder, the Welsh electricity and water combine, 31.5p to 31.5p.

The windfall pinch also trapped British Airways, 10.5p to 687.5p, and FirstBus, off 7p at 196.5p.

Although Labour's victory strengthened blue chips it sent ripples of unease through the foreign exchange market with the pound wobbling.

A slightly weaker pound eased the pressure on international groups and exporters, allowing such Footsie constituents as British Steel and Siebe to march ahead, helping the blue chip index to create its new record.

At one time Footsie was up 23.4 points. A hesitant New York, despite a slight easing of higher interest rate fears, prompted some of the enthusiasm to fade.

It was, however, a market of two halves. Second and third liners failed to experience much joy with, for example, the FTSE 250 index suffering a fall.

Better-than-expected first quarter figures lifted Unilever 29p to 1.654.5p and Reuters, up 19.5p to 679p, again responded to the reception given to its 3,000 trading system.

Cookson, the industrial materials maker, produced a trading statement which confounded the sceptics. It said half-year profits would be in line with expectations and the second half-year should witness the resumption of profit growth; it was enough to lift the shares 10p to 221.5p.

Low & Bonar, the packaging group, fell 11p to 370p as Merrill Lynch lowered its profit expectations by pounds 3m to pounds 54m; Bowthorpe, the electrical equipment group, firmed to 356.5p with NatWest Securities suggesting the shares may be worth buying soon. The investment house has reduced this year's profit forecast by pounds 4m to pounds 80m.

Glaxo Wellcome shaded to 1,193.5p following what was regarded as a disappointing research and development update to analysts. "It didn't tell us anything we didn't already know," said one.

Newcomer ITG, an Irish telephone supplies provider, made a firm debut, reaching 164.5p. Petra Diamonds made further headway, reaching 57.5p from this week's 30p placing. The bonus warrants gained 3p to 30.5p.

Arion Properties, planning a reverse takeover, rose a further 4p to 29.5p and John Mansfield edged forward 0.5p to 6p. The small timber group is in talks which could lead to "a substantial injection" in its capital. The shares were 3.5p at the start of the year.

Lambert Smith Hampton, the commercial property consultant reporting year's figures next week, rose 5.5p to 95.5p. The company arrived on the market last year through a reverse takeover of Herring Baker Harris. Interim profits came out at pounds 700,000 and with the recovery in the property market LSM should be able to achieve year's profits of more than pounds 2.5m.

Utility Cable, the cable television layer which produced disappointing profits on Thursday and said the dividend was at risk, fell a further 0.75p to 11.5p, a new low.

Corporate deal maker Luke Johnson has taken advantage of the slide to add to his shareholding. He has picked up 100,000 shares at 12.5p and 250,000 at 11p. The deals lift this stake to 4.6 per cent. He is a non- executive director.

On Ofex Energiser, making health foods, climbed 25p to an 800p peak. It has signed a number of overseas contracts for its PrevaCan concentrated nutritional bar. In this country it is using its own organisation. Last year it made a pounds 298,000 loss. The shares arrived last summer at 600p.

Comments