Utilities gain ground on hopes of US takeovers

MARKET REPORT

Even with New York closed for Labor Day, US influences dominated much of the stock market action.

Stories flowing across the Atlantic of possible corporate action enlivened what would have been a dull session with Norweb, the electricity group, leading the charge, up 37p to 933p, a peak.

The market is convinced that US utility groups are about to descend on UK electricity and water companies, following the example of the Southern Co which is acquiring South Western. Houston Industries is one rumoured predator, Pacific Gas another.

Thorn EMI was another to enjoy a US nudge. Viacom, which appears to be adopting a more upbeat presence in London, was said to be contemplating a bid, ahead of the planned demerger. It was enough to lift Thorn 30p to 1,525p.

Mercury Asset Management, the fund manager now freed from the restraints of Warburg control, edged quietly ahead to 907p, a peak, in brisk trading. A US strike is thought to be near with Merrill Lynch, which recently captured Smith New Court, one of the names in the frame.

Union, once a famed discount house, was another subject to US influences. The shares were at one time up 15p, closing 12p firmer at 115p, a year's high. Suggestions that a US house failed in an attempt to pick up 5 per cent of the capital late on Friday created the excitement. Union has been under the whip of speculation for some months. Cater Allen and Guinness Peat are the favourites to pounce.

Dobson Park, the components group which has received - and rejected - a US offer jumped 28p to 111p. Instem, a computer group where Dobson has a 30 per cent interest, rose 4p to 140p. Should the US bidder, Harnischfeger, succeed in taking over Dobson it will almost certainly sell the Instem stake, a move that could put the company into play.

The Americans did not have a monopoly on takeover chatter. From Holland came a story that Reuters and Reed could merge; Reuters gained 19p to 583p and Reed 20p to 1,010p.

The swirling takeover speculation occurred on an exceedingly quiet day, with trading at a low ebb. A New York shut-down often inhibits activity so there was considerable satisfaction that the market managed to make headway with the FT-SE 100 index up 13.3 points to 3,522.7.

However, the downbeat tone - Rugby and CRH yesterday - which is becoming evident in more company state- ments as the results season gathers pace is causing some concern.

Pearson, the banking and publishing group, put on 12p to 620p ahead of an evening investment presentation.

Today Pearson hopes to receive approval from its shareholders to sell its 9.75 per cent shareholding in the BSkyB satellite television group. The sale should give BSkyB a sufficiently wide spread of shareholders to allow the TV group to become a Footsie constituent. The FT-SE committee is due to meet tomorrow and - if Pearson's stockbrokers, BZW and Goldman Sachs, place the shares before the committee deliberates - BSkyB will join Footsie later this month. But should the placing be delayed the TV group will probably have to wait until December.

Rolls-Royce, after last week's disappointing figures, rallied 7.5p to 177p after it embarked on investment meetings. GEC rose 4p to 321p with Warburg positive. Grand Metropolitan said to near to making a big disposal, gained 7p to 416p.

Bid excitement erupted again among TV shares. Talk that Scottish TV intended to descend on HTV lifted the shares 12p to 246p; Grampian, also said to be a Scottish target, rose 13p to 215p.

Worries about raw material prices lowered British Vita 23p to 243p and Sunset & Vine, a media group, slumped 23p to 109p after a profit warning. Cautious comments clipped once high-flying Bluebird, the toys group, 18p to 224p.

Retailers were firm on the mortgage rate cuts with Next climbing 10p to 400p.

On AIM, Antonov was again in top gear, up 18p at 138p. Graduate Appointments, a recruitment agency controlled by Maurice Saatchi and his wife, Josephine Hart, arrived on the fledging market, jumping from a 4.2 price of 18p to close at 27p. Tracker Network, which has developed a system that helps police trace stolen cars, was also upgraded, gaining 100p to 775p in the process.

Casket, the troubled cycle group expected to collect a bid fell 1p to 7.25p, thought to be in line with the take-out price.

Financial group Johnson Fry rose 12p to 140p.

TAKING STOCK

o Budgens, the supermarket minnow, came to life with the shares gaining 1.5p to 36p in busy trading. Speculation continues about the fate of a 29.4 per cent stake held by the German food retailer, Rewe. The Germans are keen to sever their links with Budgens and there have been suggestions they are on the verge of selling to the Co-op. Earlier this year Rewe attacked Budgens for abandoning its Penny Market concept after a two-year experiment.

o Alliance Resources, John O'Brien's little oil and gas group, has been hit by nervous selling. The shares were at one time down to 4p yesterday; they closed, in busy trading, at 4.75p, off 1p. Last year the price was around 12p. It seems at least some of the selling stems from worries about some of Alliance's US interests.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution