Takeover excitement fails to spur Footsie to record

MARKET REPORT
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The Independent Online
Stories of bids and deals again swirled around the stock market although selective profit-taking stopped blue chips breaking through to record levels. Ladbroke, Lasmo, Royal Bank of Scotland and Vickers were put forward as the most likely bid victims.

Their fate was debated on a day when Rentokil launched its hostile offer for BET and UniChem came back with a higher bid for Lloyds Chemists.

With, on Thursday, Granada swooping on Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television the market is convinced the feast of take overs it expects this year is starting to be served up.

Last year's glut of bid activity produced deals amounting to a record pounds 40bn. Most of the action this year is likely to occur before the autumn as deals are rushed through before the looming election starts to make an impact.

Although the FT-SE 100 index gave ground the supporting index, measuring the "middle market", climbed to another record level.

At one time Footsie was at a new trading peak - up 11.8 to 3,791.6. Hopes of lower interest rates and the feeling the Scott Report was much less harmful than expected had prompted the advance. Then futures trading and a weak New York opening wiped out what had been rather tentative enthusiasm.

On the takeover front Ladbroke jumped 10p to 191p, highest for two years. A deal with Hilton Hotels of the US was the latest buzz to excite the market. Lasmo, firm this week, put on another 4p to 179p on talk of an offer from Australia's BHP.

Royal Bank of Scotland gained 12p (after 21p) on suggestions HSBC, the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation which takes in Midland Bank, was about to pounce.

Vickers, the engineering group embracing Rolls-Royce cars, moved serenely higher to 293p, up 23p, a new peak.

Stories of a Vickers deal have been circulating for some time although the shares have not produced the dramatic movement which attracts attention.

The jewel in its crown is undoubtedly Rolls-Royce which would appeal to almost every motor maker in the world. Continental groups have been mentioned but the name in the frame yesterday was GKN, the motor components group which owns the Westland helicopter business. GKN shaded 2p to 824p.

Others tossed into the takeover pool included Pilkington, the glass group that gained 8.5p to 217p, and Transport Development, up 7p at 216p. Crest Nicholson, where bid hopes have fluttered for some months, rose 2.5p to 68.5p.

Media shares continued to behave as though bid action was imminent. HTV gained 26p to 396p; Scottish TV 30p to 715p and Yorkshire 11p to 1,028p. Golden Rose, where Guardian Media has lifted its stake to 14.47 per cent, jumped 8p to 72p. Among newspapers Mirror Group Newspapers rose 4p to 213p and the Telegraph 13p to 474p. Emap put on 20p to 591p.

BET gained 11p to 195.5p in remarkable trading with Seaq putting turnover at 81.3 million shares. Rentokil slipped a further 3.5p to 333p.

Lloyds Chemists jumped 23p to 493p, indicating the market's conviction that Gehe, the German group, will top UniChem's 475p shot. UniChem gained 8.5p to 247.5p.

Edinburgh Fund Managers gained 12p to 715p after splashing out pounds 83.25m for the Dunedin fund management group, financed by a share placing. Avon Rubber, the tyre maker, bounced 49p to 561p following an agency cross of 75,000 shares at 550p.

Vendome, the luxury goods group, weakened 38p to 545p with ABN Amro Hoare Govett said to have cut its profit forecasts; Adwest, the engineer, fell 5p to 113p on a profit warning. Creighton's Naturally, the toiletries business, fell 30p to 90p after a profit warning.

Thorn EMI, expected to produce details of its music and rental split on Tuesday, shaded 9p to 1,669p. Farnell Electronics, reflecting clearance for its controversial US bid, rose 14p to 621p.

Ennimix, the aggregates group claiming assets of 48.4p a share, rejected Redland's 32p offer. The shares shaded 1p to 34p.

Biotrace International, the healthcare group, added 4p to 51p. The shares were 38.5p on Wednesday when it was announced that Jim Keir, ex-Amersham International, had become chief executive. Proteus International, likely to produce a rights issue soon, fell 4p to 51p.

Birse, the civil engineer, jumped 5p to 17.5p after an encouraging trading statement and its first profit for four years.

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