Stock Market: British Energy shares pick up in time for second call

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The Independent Online
British Energy, regarded as a privatisation too far when it was floated by the old Conservative government last summer, charged 25p higher to a 208.5p peak as buyers, conspicuous by their absence 12 months ago, piled in.

The shares slumped uncomfortably below their sale price in the first few days of trading. Against the 100p first instalment 600,000 private shareholders paid for their shares, they fell to 87.5p with many observers fretting about the risk of investing in the holding company for the nation's nuclear plants.

The fact such an ill-starred, controversial flotation actually got away was seen as something of a Westminster conjuring trick. But this year Energy has been on a roll. Morgan Stanley, the US investment house, has been making bullish noises. This week HSBC joined in the eulogy.

And yesterday, just ahead of the second call on the shares, Energy announced a profit-boosting deal with the still state-owned British Nuclear Fuels. Under a revised pounds 1.5bn contract Energy will save pounds 30m on fuel costs this year. And there is a pounds 100m fuel backlog adjustment as well.

The second call on the shares is later this month when a 98p payment is due.

The rest of the market meekly trailed New York. Initially US employment figures were seen as reducing any need for higher interest rates. But second thoughts killed off an early Dow Jones Average advance. Footsie, up 37 points at one time, ended 2.9 points higher at 4,994.2.

Great Universal Stores led blue chips, up 18p to 642.5p following the arrival of Rose Marie Bravo from US speciality retailer Saks Fifth Avenue as chief executive of Burberrys, its luxury clothing off-shoot.

But Mercury Asset Management had another downbeat session, falling 41.5p to 1,246p. The shares have lost 82.5p in two days. Record profits from the Schroders investment house failed to stop profit taking, leaving the voting shares off 52.5p to 1,815p.

BT managed to improve 4p to 415p (after 423.5p) as the MCI merger saga dragged on and EMI, the showbiz group, was up 4.5p to 576p. There is talk Seagram, the big Canadian group, wants to grow its music side and unload its drinks operation. One suggestion is it will merge its spirits business with Allied Domecq and then descend on EMI.

Cantab Pharmaceuticals, the drugs group, jumped 70p to 815p as Nick Woolf, the former Nomura drugs analyst who has joined US investment group Robertson Stephens, described the shares as a strong buy. RS set up its London office a year ago.

Eidos, the computer games group which has had a roller-coaster ride this year, recovered 67.5p to 665p. The shares have moved between 447.5p and 1,045p since March. The group, which produced the hit computer game Tomb Raider, was dropped by its auditor for failing to implement fully Cadbury's corporate governance recommendations and then got hit by allegations that trading in its shares were being investigated.

Psion, on the success of its new hand-held computer, jumped 60p to 397.5p but Misys fell 118.5p to 1,480p following its US buy and pounds 312m rights issue. Another takeover on the market's under card lifted Philip Harris 27p to 267.5p. It is merging with Nottingham Group in a deal creating a pounds 70m education equipment supplier. Nottingham firmed 1.5p to 82.5p.

Stockbroker Brewin Dolphin, rumoured to be on the takeover trail, has produced a modest deal, buying London Stockmarket Analysis, an investment research company. The stockbroker is paying pounds 18,000 with further payments up to pounds 532,000.

British Vita, the chemical group, added 7.5p to 250p, a 12-month high. Interim results are due on Monday. Around pounds 31m against pounds 26.4m is expected.

BTG, the old British Technology group, rose 62.5p to 768.5p. The Shell oil giant has produced a range of oils to run in BTG's revolutionary Torotrak automatic gearbox. The company has a wide range of developments and Torotrak is regarded as one of its most promising. The Shell involvement suggests the new gearbox is likely to work.

Seet, the textile group, returned from suspension at 30.5p, down 5.25p. The nil paid rights traded at 4.5p. It has taken over a schoolwear supplier and a protective clothing company.

Romtec, an IT and business intelligence agency, held at 97.5p, near its year's high. Stockbroker Durlacher sees profits this year growing from pounds 326,000 to pounds 400,000.

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