TV talks trigger a winning streak for football clubs

MARKET REPORT

Even before the first shots of Euro 96 some spectacular goals are being scored in the stock market.

The fully listed football clubs surged to record highs as the battle to screen Premiership games was being decided by 20 club chairmen in Coventry.

Manchester Utd, the league and cup winners, romped ahead 32p to 463p; Tottenham Hotspur rose 23p to 461p and Chelsea Village, the company owning Chelsea FC, gained 3p to 66p.

After the market closed last night a deal with BSkyB worth pounds 670m over four years was clinched, far more lucrative than the pounds 60m a year the clubs get at the moment.

But the market is no longer content merely to evaluate what the television rights are likely to be worth. There is a growing suspicion that with the vast sums now involved the communication giants will, in the fullness of time, decide to demand a place at any negotiating table by buying successful clubs. The possibility of clubs launching their own television operations is also in the background.

The rest of the market failed to hold its best levels and the FT-SE 100 index ended 6.9 points higher at 3,760.3p. The interest rate cut triggered a token mark-up which, with little follow-through, quickly ran out of steam.

RTZ, the minerals giant, fell 23.5p to 967.5p as the market fretted about the collapse of the copper price, and Ladbroke lost some of its takeover appeal, falling 5.5p to 186.5p. The betting and hotel group was hit by reports that Hilton Hotel Corporation, the US group seen as one of its most ardent suitors. had lashed out $2bn on the Bally Gaming casino group. Such a deal leaves HHC with precious little time - and cash - to buy Ladbroke. But it could pursue its dream of uniting Ladbroke's international spread of Hilton Hotels with the Hilton chain it owns in the US through a trading pact.

Zeneca, the drugs group, enjoyed another heady run, up 18p at 1,379p, as takeover talk continued to swirl and Medeva jumped 30p to 261p on its pounds 240m US acquisition.

British Airways climbed 11p to 549p following a bullish presentation at ABN Amro Hoare Govett; National Power brightened 3.5p to 527p as stockbroker Greig Middleton said buy up to 600p.

Blenheim, the exhibitions group, soared another 42p to 451p as the market awaited the appearance of the signalled bidder and Johnston, a civil engineer, roared 105p to 478p as the acquisitive TT Group tendered for a 27.46 per cent stake at 500p. TT says the shareholding is a "strategic investment", which the market reads as platform for a bid.

Surrey Free Inns, earlier this week rumoured to be looking at the Tom Cobleigh pubs chain, jumped 36p to 268p, implying it could be on the receiving end of a bid. The shares have come up from 70p in the past year.

Aminex, with oil interests in the former Soviet Union, gained 5p to 64p as the International Finance Corporation, an arm of the World Bank, agreed to pump in pounds 4.2m at 60p a share and make loans up to $30m for the second phase of Aminex's Kirtayel Field development.

Megalomedia, the Saatchi vehicle, fell 2p to 102p as pounds 5m was raised through placing shares with Robert Fleming at 65p. OmniMedia, which has linked with Oracle to produce tools for video servers, gained 7p to 70p.

Mayflower Corporation's big US splash lifted the shares 12.5p to 129p and Firth, the steel group, continued to advance following its move into aircraft parts and stories that big contracts loom, gaining 3.5p to 68.5p.

European Telecom, a mobile telephone distributor, successfully dialled into the market - its shares reached 139p from a 115p placing. But a much more spectacular debut occurred on Ofex, the fringe share market run by JP Jenkins. Skynet Corporation, placed at 27.5p, surged to 73p. The company is hoping to develop a system to provide information, rescue and safety services to mobile telephone users.

Recently another Ofex share, Motion Media, a video telephone business, made a dramatic debut, going from 67.5p to around 240p in a few days. It is now 200p.

European Colour, the pigments group, firmed to 78p after producing figures slightly below market expectations - a 55 per cent gain to pounds 2.9m. Around pounds 3.4m is expected this year.

The group continues to seek acquisitions - it is talking to six companies and has 130 on its shopping list. Wyndeham Press edged ahead 3p to 228p after a 45 per cent profit advance to pounds 5.1m.

TAKING STOCK

GGT, the old Gold Greenlees Trott, gained 10p to 238p, just below the 12 month high. Shares of the advertising agency have climbed from 169p in the past year and their recent strength is thought to herald takeover action.

The company is believed to be trading well and should have produced around pounds 5.8m in the year ended April against pounds 4.5m.

Questions are being asked about Real Time Controls, the computer group. Yesterday it, in effect, issued a profits warning, saying profits would be similar to last year's pounds 1.7m. At least pounds 2m had been expected. There is surprise the trading statement was not released on Friday when chief executive Brian Emerson quit. The shares, then 314p, fell a further 20p to 223p.

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