Takeover tonic leaves the Footsie in a festive mood; MARKET REPORT

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The Independent Online
Hopes that the traditional Christmas share spree is about to enliven the stock market were rekindled by the sudden outbreak of takeover fever. Five bids in two days was the sort of medicine needed after the uncertainty created by Alan Greenspan, chairman of the US Fed.

Footsie scored a 38.6-point gain to 4,018.2 in often busy trading. Although relief at the US stand-still on interest rates was tempered by fears of a domestic increase in the new year, Footsie ended at its best level of the day with second-and third-line shares also joining the party.

The unexpected Canadian assault on Clyde Petroleum and the US Entergy's descent on London Electricity increased the excitement already generated by FKI's bid for Newman Tonks and Fairey's move for Burnfield.

Clyde, which quickly rejected the pounds 432m shot from Canada's Gulf Resources, jumped above the bid price to 118.5p.

The oil sector has looked ripe for takeover action with the likes of Lasmo in the front line. The appearance of the Canadian predator underlined the suspicion that a round of corporate action could develop.

The Clyde battle lifted Cairn Energy 21.5p to 411.5p; Hardy Oil & Gas 23.5p to 296.5p and Monument Oil & Gas 4p to 65p.

Enterprise Oil, up 24p to 595.5p, and Lasmo, 7.5p to 227p, were also engulfed in the oil flare.

London Electricity, the latest regional to fall, accepted a 705p a share offer; the shares gained 13p to 696.5p.

The two remaining electricity groups still without a suitor, Southern and Yorkshire, edged ahead by a few coppers; their days of independence seem numbered. The London Electricity deal occurred a few hours before Ian Lang, President of the Board of Trade, cleared the Dominion Resources offer for East Midlands Electricity.

The green light was expected after the clearance of CE Electric's bid for Northern Electric and it would be strange indeed if the Entergy offer failed to clear the Whitehall hurdle.

The other bid involved ADT, Michael Ashcroft's security group which is now based in Bermuda and is on the fringe of the market.

The shares rose 162.5p to 1,375p in response to a bid from Western Resources which already has 27 per cent.

Abbey National jumped 14.5p to 736.5p, a high. There is a strong conviction takeover activity will break out among financials and Abbey is seen as a likely participant in any action.

There is a lingering story that it could merge with Prudential Corporation, up 4p at 479p. But some feel it could be in the running for an adventure in another area, perhaps fund management.

Commercial Union, touted as the target for a host of companies, gave up a little of its speculative exuberance, easing 6.5p to 686.5p. But General Accident and Royal Sun Alliance made headway. Among insurance brokers Willis Corroon put on a further 3.5p to 144p.

Pearson, the media group, perked up 22p to 711.5p following its trading update and Rank added 12p to 442p ahead of a trading statement, expected today.

Siebe, the engineer, gained 16.5p to 1,008p, a peak, after collecting industrial control orders worth pounds 150m.

Sears, the Selfridges group, missed the party, courtesy of Merrill Lynch. The investment house lowered its profit forecast from pounds 115m to pounds 100m and said the shares were a sell.

NatWest Securities was also in downgrade mode. It lowered its Coats Viyella forecasts from pounds 103m to pounds 82m and pounds 172m to pounds 150m and trimmed its Rentokil Initial expectations from pounds 327m to pounds 317m and pounds 454m to pounds 445m. CV rose 1.5p to 128.5p and Rentokil eased 2p to 437p. Dawson Holdings, the media group, jumped 225p to 2,175p following profits up from pounds 3.5m to pounds 9.8m. The shares arrived on AIM last year at 480p.

Creighton's Naturally's pounds 3.1m cash-raising exercise at 23p left the shares of the soap-maker off 12.5p at 27.5p. They have come down from 129p in the past year.

Oxford Biomedica continued to struggle towards its 88p placing. The shares put on another 5p to 60.5p against the 42.5p hit when dealings started on Friday.

Eidos, the computer games group, jumped 55p to 732.5p. It is thought to be doing well in the Christmas sales rush. ABN Amro Hoare Govett is looking for profits of pounds 9m this year with pounds 14.5m pencilled in for next. Last year the company, which has never made a profit, suffered a pounds 1.9m loss.

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