Takeover euphoria a thing of the past

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It was back to basics as the stock market dwelt on this week's expected interest rate increases. Takeover euphoria, which generated so much excitement last week, largely evaporated as most investors, big and small, decided to sit on the sidelines, allowing yawning indifference to suffocate the proceedings.

Trading got off to a slow start when many of the market's dealing screens failed to function. With traders forced into unwelcome idleness, the market never achieved the sort of momentum it had started to enjoy last week.

It was such a lacklustre session that even BICC and Amec failed to offer much in the way of celebration following their success in winning a chunk of the £800m contract to build a terminal at the new Hong Kong airport. The two groups are part of a consortium that includes a Chinese construction and engineering enterprise.

BICC, which has fallen from 471p in the past year, managed a knee-jerk 10p gain to 313p but despite supportive noises from two securities houses it was struggling to hold a 2p gain at the close.

Amec was at one time up to 67p but ended at 64p, a 3p gain. A year ago the shares were159p.

Both groups have suffered from the recession and are not expected to have made much profit progress last year. BICC's dividend has been held at 19.3p since 1990 and there is unlikely to be any increase for last year. Indeed there is some vague talk of a possible cut. Smith New Court forecast profits of £135m for last year, with £174m this year.

Amec should have managed profits of £22.5m last year, with hopes lingering of £27.5m this year and £35m next.

The FT-SE 100 index closed 26.3 points down at 2,995.9. Besides expected UK and US interest rate advances there were also worries about the growing disenchantment with emerging markets following the Mexican crisis.

New York was weak, reflecting jitters that the FOMC meeting will lead to another rate increase, which could then prompt a half-point UK lift after this week's "Ken and Eddie" meeting.

Courtaulds, the chemicals group, had a bumpy session, falling 18.5p to 407.5p. The damage was done by a relatively modest 100,000 share sale at 2p outside the then ruling market price. Such desparation to unload, not surprisingly, created unease.

Kingfisher, the struggling retailer, bucked the trend, advancing 16p to 424p on break-up speculation. But Pentos, which said it had rescheduled loans totalling £4.2m, fell 2.5p to 9.5p.

Among takeover favourites to lose their appeal were Kleinwort Benson, down 11p at 609p, TSB, 8p at 235p, and SG Warburg, 8p to 750p. But one old favourite, Fisons, added 1.5p to 109p as speculation resurfaced.

Insurances felt the weight of a Societe Generale Strauss Turnbull review, with General Accident easing 13.5p to 506.5p.

Bensons Crisps crumbled 3p to 32p on talk that a rights issue was being prepared; at the interim stage losses increased and the was dividend passed.

Morgan Crucible, the industrial materials group, firmed to 305p as Greig Middleton forecast profits of £72m for 1994 and £81m this year. It has pencilled in £93m for next year. The group has attracted the occasional takeover speculation.

On the building pitch Tarmac and George Wimpey edged ahead. There was vague talk of corporation action although the direction it would take appeared to mystify most observers.

ACT, the computer group, tumbled 18p to 72p on a profit warning but Filtronic, a maker of mobile telephone parts, jumped 20p to 189p following maiden results. The group is meeting institutional investors.

Haynes Publishing's results left the shares 20p lower at 330p and Norish, a transport business, reversed 27p to 51p in belated recognition of last week's dividend warning.

Butte Mining, largely a litigation play, held at 4p. There is talk of an investment presentation, hosted by Derivative Securities.

Welsh Gold, operating Britain's only functioning gold mine, has fixed its share issue at 50p, pricing the group at £5.6m. The shares will be traded on the 4.2 market. The company intends to raise £1.3m. Besides a mine in the Snowdonia national park it has jewellery manufacturing and retailing interests there. The flotation is being handled by Brooke Corporate Finance.

British Dredging, the building materials supplier, continues to attract the attention of a mysterious Panamanian company called Redbird Holdings. It has acquired another 250,000 shares, lifting its stake to 14.69 per cent. Redbird has specialised in building up interests in smaller industrial groups and is thought to try to exert some pressure to encourage corporate activity