Like a prehistoric ritual, Wednesday's quarterly review of the indices will see some blue chips sacrificed on the altar of market value and a handful of mid-cappers accepted into the market's most revered elite.
The reshuffle is about more than prestige. With institutional investors increasingly reluctant to put money in companies below the FTSE 100, the loss of blue-chip status - and of valuable tracker fund support - often leads to some hefty price falls.
Energis is almost certain to be brought into the FTSE 100 inner sanctum. The telecommunications company's shares have had an extraordinary run, soaring nearly 600 per cent in less than a year. The stock's amazing climb has long given Energis a capitalisation well in excess of many FTSE 100 constituents. At around pounds 4.8bn, the group's market value is level with the likes of British Airways and P&O.
However, the telecoms supplier was prevented from entering the index by the large stake owned by National Grid, the electricity group. With around 75 per cent of the capital in the hands of just one shareholder, Energis was considered a mere subsidiary of National Grid and thus barred from the FTSE 100. It was freed in January when National Grid cashed in on the stock's performance and reduced its stake to below 50 per cent, netting some pounds 1.1bn for its troubles.
As one company in the fancied telecoms sector goes in, one of the battered engineers is set to drop out.This is no ordinary metal-basher, it's none other than Tomkins. The last of the conglomerates, Tomkins has a turnover of pounds 5bn, compared to Energis' pounds 168m, and operations ranging from construction components to food manufacturing and garden equipment.
Despite its financial prowess, the shares have been hit by the City's lack of interest in engineering stocks, underperforming the market by some 60 per cent over the past five years. Tomkins' exit from the FTSE 100 will leave BTR Siebe as the only member of the general engineering sector in the index.
EMAP, the magazine and radio group, is set to join the FTSE 100. The owner of glossy titles such as FHM and Red and the hip station Kiss FM hit a five-year peak last week at 1,418p. The shares have done well to recover from the dip in December when EMAP splashed out over $1bn ($600m) for Petersen, the US publisher of intriguing titles like Guns 'n Ammo and Hot Rod.
EMAP should push out either Williams, the once-sprawling conglomerate now focusing on fire and security, or Safeway, the supermarket chain. Both of them could drop out if South African Breweries gets in. The world's fourth-largest brewer starts full dealings today after a week in the grey market. The stock, floated at 428p, rose to 465p on Friday when it put another 11 million shares on the market. On present form it should scrape in, but all depends on how SAB fares before tomorrow's deadline.
Uncertainty also surrounds Misys. The software group was odds-on to return to the FTSE 100 before being hit by a below-price trade last week. On Friday, it rose 8.25p to 625.75p, but that might not be enough. If Misys succeeds Gallaher, the cigarette maker, could end its brief spell as a blue-chip unless Billiton, the long-suffering mining group, beats them through the FTSE 100 trapdoor.
The continuing flurry of results from blue-chip companies will keep dealers busy this week. No fewer than six Footsie companies are to report figures.
British American Tobacco will be first. Profits are forecast at about pounds 1.62bn, up from pounds 1.59bn last time. But the real price-sensitive news will be progress reports on Rothmans' acquisition and the US litigation cases.
Pearson is the second big hitter. The media group has been through a major restructuring ; out went several publishing ventures and the Tussauds attractions business, and in came the Simon & Schuster educational publishers. S&S, bought for pounds 4.6bn, was integrated a month ago and should contribute pounds 20m to operating profit. But analysts believe that a successful merger between S&S and Addison Wesley Longman, Pearson's existing publishing business, will be key to the double-digit earnings growth target set by chief executive Marjorie Scardino. She should be able to meet her goal in 1998, with experts shooting for pre-exceptional profits of around pounds 340m against pounds 286m.
Diageo, the drinks giant, will have little to toast on Thursday. Trading in wine and spirits has been hit by tough markets in Asia and Latin America. Pillsbury, the food division, has suffered from pricing pressures and materials cost. Interim profits will be lower - say pounds 1.02bn versus pounds 1.2bn - but investors will probably focus on issues such the near-11 per cent stake held by the French luxury group LVMH. There has been talk that the French could sell to pay for their assault on Gucci. Positive words on a share buyback would also be welcomed.
Reckitt & Coleman is having it tough. The maker of Harpic cleaner and Lemsip is still without a chief executive after the surprise departure of Vernon Sankey in January. A profits warning in November caused a share slump, and market conditions are not expected to have improved much. Overall, profits should be down by 11 per cent to pounds 280m and a further price slide would probably reawaken talk of interest from Unilever.
Albright & Wilson, results on Thursday, is a more likely takeover play. The stock raced ahead last week on talk of an 125p to 130p strike by a foreign predator. The French group Rhodia, majority-owned by Rhone-Poulenc, is hot favourite.Reuse content