Tesco and Williams Holdings fight off bear attacks

MARKET REPORT

Bears attempted to savage Tesco and Williams Holdings as the stock market turned in an uneventful performance with Footsie struggling to close 9.8 points higher.

Tesco, at one time down 10p, had to contend with stories that analyst David McCarthy at BZW had produced a strong sell circular.

His advice, however, was much less dramatic. He still regards Tesco as a long-term buy but felt that short-term there was an argument for switching out of the superstores front-runner into rival Safeway, up 7p at 366.5p.

His view was prompted by the suspicion that Tesco's recent heady sales advance would have tailed off. The BZW forecast for this year is unchanged at pounds 825m. At the close Tesco was down 7p to 375p.

Williams Holdings, the fire protection and security group, endured a 4p fall to 397p as vague stories circulated of problems at one of its US operations.

Reed International was also gnawed, suffering the worst Footsie fall, down 18p at 607.5p.

Profit forecasts were trimmed as it became clear that 50 or so US legal publications acquired in January could lose much of their copyright protection following a court ruling.

The Anglo Dutch group bought the publications from Thomson Corporation, which had been ordered to sell them by the US anti-trust authorities.

The court decision allows rival publishers to electronically scan the law books and republish them. Although there are hopes the court decision will be overturned there is a deep fear that Reed's legal publishing, seen as an important element in its growth plans, will be retarded, particularly if copyright is also damaged in Britain and Europe.

BSkyB edged ahead 3p to 584.5p. Stories are circulating that the satellite television station is planning to issue US ADRs in the next few weeks. The move is likely to include a cash raising element.

Telewest, the struggling cable group, had another depressing session, hitting a new low, off 4.5p to 68p. The loss-making group, stripped of its title as the largest industry player following the formation of Cable & Wireless Communications, is looking increasingly forlorn. The shares were floated at 182p.

Footsie ended at 4,651.8. The supporting FTSE 250 index edged ahead 1.1 to 4,501.5p. Government stocks had a poor session, falling by up to pounds 13/4 following a disappointing take-up of the pounds 1.5bn auction.

Allders, the department store chain, firmed to 201p. NatWest Securities expects next week's results to be encouraging and rate the shares a buy.

Cortecs International, the drugs group, was another to attract analytical support. Greig Middleton produced one of those "fair value" estimates, suggesting the shares currently have a 473p value, which would stretch to 725p in 12 months. The shares were none too impressed, falling 4p to 211p.

Celltech continued to give ground, although it ended above its low at 332.5, off 8.5p.

Retailers, helped along by higher sales in April and relief over the Storehouse results, turned in some firm displays. Storehouse gained 7p to 223.5p and Boots 10p to 713.5p.

Transport shares retreated after Margaret Beckett, President of the Board of Trade, referred the proposed National Express takeover of ScotRail and Central Trains to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Mrs Beckett's referral, without giving National a chance to offer undertakings, was seen as the first shot in a Government get-tough policy with the sector.

National reversed 28.5p to 490.5p; Stagecoach 13p to 648p and Go-Ahead 23p to 448.5p.

Rolls-Royce rose 3.5p to 248.5p on hopes Mrs Beckett will look favourably on the company's request to have the ceiling on its overseas investors lifted, even removed. British Aerospace, with a similar restriction, climbed 13.5p to 1,232.5p. On Wednesday Rolls revealed foreign shareholdings had hit the 29.5 per cent upper limit.

Insurances continued to gather benefits from the Norwich Union flotation with General Accident putting on 13p to 952p. Legal & General rose 5p to 460.5p.

On dull days there is inevitably an effort to get a take over story buzzing. Tadpole Technology was given the treatment, lifted 1.75p to 11.25p. The shares have come down from 69p in the past 12 months and three years ago, when hopes were riding high over its computer developments, touched 434.5p.

Eagles, the rugby club which arrived at 40p on Wednesday, fell a further 2.5p to 31p. The Sheffield club's head coach, Phil Larder, quit on debut day; replaced by John Kear.

Taking Stock

Oliver, the shoe group, stepped out 3.5p to 41.5p. The shares were 27.5p earlier this month. Helped by a property windfall which sharply reduced gearing, it returned to profit in the 57 weeks to end February. Swede Peter Gyllenhammar has been dabbling in the shares and at the last count had 4.35 per cent. He has had stakes in Chloride and Phoenix Timber and made his name in Sweden with a number of takeover bids.

Guinness Peat, run by New Zealander Sir Ron Brierley, is thought to have turned its attention to Iceland, the frozen food chain. It snapped up a 3 per cent stake, partly from the Electricity Supply Pension Fund. GP's stakes include car dealer Gowrings and Young & Co's. Brewery. Iceland was little changed at 89p.

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