Tougher times for financial community pull at Reuter

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The Independent Online
The enthusiasm created by this week's Reuters presentation in the US has almost evaporated. The shares fell a further 9p to 475p as Henderson Crosthwaite pulled back its profit expectations.

The increasingly tough conditions being experienced by the financial community are worrying followers of the shares. Cuts are occurring with uncomfortable monotony. Often they involve only a few people but collectively represent a depressing dwindling of the number of bodies needing Reuters information screens.

One industry source is reported in a trade magazine as saying: "The boom of last year has fizzled out since Christmas. Users are much more cautious about costs and it is a longer slog to make the sale; the business is still there but it is taking longer to get it".

The uncertainty surrounding SG Warburg, which has cut staffing levels sharply this year, is another indication of the strain the financial community is experiencing. There are reports that the potential bidder Swiss Bank Corporation will make thousands of job cuts if it wins control.

At last month's shareholders' meeting Reuters admitted growth was slowing and this year's performance would not match 1994's.

Henderson has reduced this year's profit forecast by £20m to £565m and next year's by £35m to £635m.

Its analyst Brian Newman, who spent yesterday playing golf, left his colleagues with the message that trading in the main financial centres had become more difficult and growth in emerging markets, such as China and South America, was slowing . "We believe there is a cyclical element to the order pattern and this is now in a down phase", he said.

On the back of the US presentation and some new calculations from a US investment house Reuters shares rose to 491p.

The rest of the stock market was prepared for the Conservative poll humiliation but bemused by the Chancellor's decision not to cut interest rates.

In the event the FT-SE 100 index retreated 12.6 points to 3,251.7 with most of the interest rate reaction occurring on the foreign exchange market, where sterling fell sharply.

With the inviting May sunshine and the long weekend beckoning, trading was often down to a trickle, with many traders making early departures from the market.

There was, however, some apprehension about Tuesday's trading. Some fear currency turmoil, with the pound in the firing line, on Monday could unsettle overseas share markets. "If that happens we could encounter a big sell- off on Tuesday", one dealer said.

Worries about a difficult Tuesday prompted late selling, with the index giving most of its ground in the past two hours.

Glaxo Wellcome dipped 7p to 732p with a trade of 3.45 million shares undertaken by James Capel at 734p creating interest. There was also a 4.4 million deal in the rump of Wellcome at 1,060p, just 9p below the market price.

The mystery trades were thought to relate to executive options.

Warburg continued to move ahead, gaining 15p to 842p, and Thorn EMI remained unruffled by the Walt Disney denial, climbing 13p to 1,191p. Polypipe, the maker of plastic pipes, entered the takeover arena, gaining 4p to 169p.

WH Smith shaded 3p to 409p with Barclays de Zoete Wedd and UBS saying sell.

Grampian Television "A" shares celebrated enfranchisement proposals with a 9p gain to 315p. An encouraging trading statement lifted Psion, the computer group, 7p to 324p. Sherwood Computers gained 9p to 133p.

Cantab Pharmaceutical jumped 30p to 133p. It reported a first-quarter loss but has appointed Lehman Brothers as its stockbroker and may seek offers.

Optometrics, a Leeds optical systems group, rose 2p to 17p. It has issued £300,000 of convertible loan stock to Mandrina, described as a private investment company, which has also acquired a 9.6 per cent stake at 18p. The loan stock is convertible at 25p after two years.

Etam, the fashion shops chain, held at 210p. Gartmore has cut its stake from 14 per cent to 8.5 per cent.

Farringford, operating a solitary hotel on the Isle of Wight, added 1p to 6.5p, highest for a year. Five years ago the shares touched 146p. There are rumbles the loss-making company, which has been searching for acquisitions for more than two years, is at last about to alight on a target. It is thought to be in the leisure industry. The company has some interesting shareholders including Northern Trust, the private vehicle of Trevor Hemmings, a director of Scottish & Newcastle.

Bolton, a revamped property group, gained 2p to 24p. China Strategic Holdings, run by Oei Hong-leong, a Chinese tycoon, has picked up 3 per cent and is expected to hold nearly 30 per cent once a £4.7m placing and rights issue is completed next week.

On the 4.2 market Memory Corporation, developing a system to revitalise defective chips, topped 200p, with a Scottish institution said to be shopping for shares. They were floated at 45p late last year.


o Frost, the largest independent petrol retailer, is thought to be near to doubling its size. A deal with Elf, the French group, or Texaco of the US, could be on the cards. Frost has 240 outlets and is known to be looking for more. Texaco, supplying 1,200 stations, is reorganising its UK operations and could be prepared to sell unwanted properties to Frost, whose shares were unchanged at 271p.

o Still more companies are arriving on the backwater 4.2 market. Latest are stockbroker Neilson Cobbold and William Nash, a wallpaper and property group dating back to 1817. Neilson, based in Liverpool, is a private client broker that has expanded its operations and has £1.5bbn under management. Nash, with 70 shareholders, made profits of £2.7m last year.