THIS WEEK

UTILITY stocks continued to excite the market and with more bid activity this week the FT-SE 100 index of leading shares made steady progress to close at 3468.9 on Friday from its opening level of 3423.1. Scottish Power launched a pounds 1bn hostile bid for Chester-based Manweb.

John Baker, chairman of National Power, called for the bid to be referred to the Monopolies & Mergers Commission. Manoeuvring by other utility stocks continued, with South Western Electricity flirting with the market over a bumper payout for shareholders, if they reject US Southern Electric International's hostile bid.

The MMC demanded Lyonnaise des Eaux introduce tough price controls as a condition of its bid for Northumbrian Water proceeding. Reuters reported profits growth of 17 per cent for the half-year stage, but warned it could not be assured of continued double-digit growth next year. The shares had shed 28p to 528p by Friday.

Euro Disney, the Paris theme park, with its shares quoted in London and Paris, reported its first profit. It made FFr170m (pounds 21.9m) in the third quarter. It said it may even be able to break even for the full year.

The tangled manoeuvring around the Greenbury report continued when Chancellor Kenneth Clarke made some limited concessions to his proposed income tax for share options. Options already granted would be excluded from the new tax. But backbenchers said they would still oppose the measures when they appear in the finance bill.

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