Standard Chartered suffers in Far Eastern fall-out

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The Independent Online
Standard Chartered, the banking group, is emerging as the stock market's main casualty in the Far Eastern fall-out. In busy trading the shares fell a further 38.5p to 808p with talk of large lines of stock on offer.

It was suggested selling was coming from South-east Asia. But Standard has only one significant Asian shareholder, Tan Sri Khoo Teck Puat, with around 15 per cent.

The Malaysian businessman, one of the so-called White Squires who rescued the bank from the unwanted attentions of Lloyds TSB 11 years ago, is, however, an unlikely seller. Indeed there is speculation Standard's retreat will encourage him to top up his shareholding.

Even if Far Eastern interests are remaining faithful there is no doubt the Standard share register is suffering from some determined unloading. The shares have fallen from 1,081.5p, largely on the storm which engulfed Pacific currency and share markets.

Standard's big Far Eastern exposure was highlighted yesterday by problems at its securities operation in Manila. The Philippine banking authorities are investigating alleged breaches of the country's investment laws. Standard said it was co-operating although it felt it had not broken the law.

HSBC, the market's other major Pacific victim, edged a few coppers higher to 2,042.5p, after an early fall.

The rest of the market moved narrowly with Footsie ending 14.4 points higher at 4,991.3. A Confederation of British Industry survey pointing to a retail slowdown helped sentiment and engineers, like LucasVarity, up 8.5p to 205.5p, scored from the less exuberant display by sterling.

Dixons, indicating the pace of sales growth was easing, softened 13.5p to 651.5p, dragging Kingfisher 13.5p lower to 751.5p.

Mercury Asset Management fell 41p to 1,287.5p on worries about its performance during this year's bull market. Stockbroker BWD firmed to 125p although it was left to Charles Stanley, unchanged at 131.5p, to attempt an acquisitive swoop, opening talks with MeesPierson to buy its Shaw & Co stockbroking arm.

British Energy, up 13p to 183.5p, was helped by an HSBC push; last week Morgan Stanley put a buy sign over the shares. The second instalment of last summer's flotation is due later this month.

Ocean, the transport group, rose 16p to 583.5p, a peak, after meeting institutions, and Tarmac, the building materials group, hardened 7p to 123.5p with SBC Warburg saying buy up to 150p. Amersham International, the health care group, jumped 35p to 2,025p after meeting Oslo analysts ahead of its merger with the Norwegian Nycomed group.

Publisher Mediakey kept up the takeover action among second-liners by reporting a bid approach. The shares rose 10.5p to 39p.

Lehman Brothers and Warburg regard Rank, up 4.5p to 351.5p, as a hold following its holiday camp revamp.

Willams, making a late bid for inclusion in the Footsie index, firmed to 365.5p, with NatWest Securities saying the shares were worth picking up.

Toad, the loss making car security company once riding at 117.5p, reversed 4p to 29.5p, a new low. The latest sell-off followed a modest stake reduction by Newton Investment Management. It sold just over 50,000 shares, cutting its holding to 3.82 per cent. The car alarms business has suffered a boardroom upheaval this year with four directors departing. In May it linked with TV personality Noel Edmonds.

Tradepoint, the share dealing system, continued to firm ahead of next month's arrival of order driven trading .

Utility Cable, which gets most of its income laying ducts for cable television, issued, perhaps not surprisingly, a profit warning, sending its already depressed shares even lower. But then talk of stake-building surfaced. And the price, once down to 4.5p, recovered to 5.5p in busy trading.

UC has been a poor investment with entrepreneur Luke Johnson, a director, one who has suffered. He has around 7 per cent of the company mostly picked up between 13p and 20p.

Vision, a video group, is rated a buy by stockbroker Greig Middleton at around 130p. Although it has produced two profit warnings in little more than three months analyst Richard Andrews believes the video-conferencing market is set to grow strongly.

He believes the shares should appeal to investors with an appetite for risk. He sees losses for the year ending July coming out at pounds 1.5m. In the current year he expects the company to get into the black with profits of around pounds 1m.

Taking Stock

The stock market's neglect of small companies is throwing up some seemingly inviting investments. Beales Hunter, a refrigeration group bumping along near its year's low at 90p, is paying a final dividend of 7.8p, putting the shares on an effective 15 per cent yield. They go ex- dividend on Monday. The company, which suffered a profit fall from pounds 3.26m to pounds 1.71m, is capitalised at pounds 9.5m. Its shares have been as high as 292p.

The Dow Jones Average which, of course, is a major influence on Footsie, could hit 8,500 points late this year or early next before suffering a sharp setback. That is the view of Dick McCabe, chartist at Merrill Lynch. But he feels Wall Street will regain its exuberance and the century should end on a high note.