Ukrainian raid may have sabotaged pounds 54m oil deal

MARKET REPORT
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The Independent Online
It has not taken former communists long to learn how to play capitalists at their own game. This week a Ukrainian-funded stock market raid may have sabotaged a pounds 54m agreed takeover bid.

Oil and gas explorer Ramco Energy, where former Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind is a director, seemed to be putting JKX Oil & Gas, headed by Railtrack chief Sir Robert Horton, out of its misery when it mounted a bid in July.

All seemed to be going smoothly until UkraGazprom, the state owned Ukrainian energy company, picked up shares through stockbroker T Hoare & Co. It now has 11.67 per cent of the capital paying around pounds 7m.

The intervention has so far prevented Ramco, which has interests in the former Soviet Union, gaining control. It had hoped to do so on Thursday but had to be content with a 48.5 per cent shareholding. The bid has been extended until September 29. To complicate matters Ramco's share exchange offer equates to only 45.5p a share against 52p (the price the Ukrainians paid) in the market.

It could be that Ramco, off 17.5p to 1,137.5p, will have increase, or even abandon, its offer. Still it is seeking to come to terms with the intruders. But Steven Bertram, Ramco's chief financial officer, said if it could not work with UkraGazprom "there would be no point in the deal".

JKX, with interests in the Ukraine and Georgia, has been one of the market's new-issue disasters. Shares were placed at 190p two years ago. They touched 201p but have been in ragged retreat since, hitting 29.75p before Ramco offered a little salvation.

The rest of the market ended a dismal week on a suitably dismal note. True, shares finished above the day's worst. After swinging from extremes of a 23.2 points plus to a 20.9 fall, Footsie closed 6.6 lower at 4,848.2.

National Westminster Bank, on the persistent story of a deal over its securities arm, rose a further 7.5p to 841.5p. The shares have risen 29p in a weak market since the German Commerzbank's rights issue started rumours the cash was earmarked for the securities side of NatWest. Barclays, up 4.5p to 1,425.5p, got a little help from the gentle buy-back programme. Another 1 million shares were picked up at 1,422.84p.

Like NatWest EMI, the showbiz group, is bucking the trend. Stories of a Seagram swoop edged the shares a further 3p higher to 586.5p.

BTR's conversion from conglomerate to focused engineering group failed to produce any follow-through to Thursday's 15p advance. Although NatWest Securities talked of a 280p target price, the shares relapsed 2,5p to 231.5p.

General Electric Co fell 14.5p to 380.5p after confirming it had been dropped from the list of bidders for the defence electronics arm of German group Siemens.

BICC lost 13p to 145.5p; US glass maker Corning's warned about overcapacity and a slowdown in optical fibre demand.

Best of the blue chips was British Airways, up 14.5p to 678.5p on what seemed placatory noises from the European Commission over the proposed American Airways alliance and a settlement of the long running and destructive cabin crew pay dispute.

Prudential Corporation's management shake-up trimmed the shares 8.5p to 620.5p.

Drugs remained under the weather although Biocompatibles International rallied a further 17.5p to 592.5p. SkyePharma, the Ian Gowrie Smith vehicle, could not have picked a worse time to produce a cash call and disappointing figures. The shares crashed 19.5p to 49p. Another rights issue is likely next year.

Croda, the chemical group, was little changed at 365p although Merrill Lynch has put a 420p target on the shares.

Next, the fashion chain, fell 23p to 731.5p on Credit Lyonnais Laing caution. Interim figures are due next week with the market looking for around pounds 68m, up from pounds 56m.

Dalgety, another reporting next week, gained 6.5p to 274p on hopes that a dismal profits out-turn will be countered by break-up developments at the pet foods group.

Inchcape, the international trader, fell 8.5p to 261p, lowest since April. It, too, reports next week and an interim profits fall from pounds 82.8m to around pounds 73m is expected.

Recruitment agency PSD rose a further 8p to 328.5p following a 42 per cent interim profit gain to pounds 3.9m.

Limelight, the bathroom and kitchen group, remained closeted in a darkened corner. The shares fell 2.5p to a new 35p low.

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