WPP takes top billing on strong overseas demand

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WPP, the advertising group that has been quietly going about its business as the Saatchi brothers squabbled with their old agency, achieved top stock market billing as US investors were said to be chasing the shares.

The price climbed 8p to a 1995 peak of 131p in busy trading. There was talk of a large unsatisfied American buying order said to lurk at Smith New Court.

WPP, long regarded as undervalued compared with the US giants, is certain to have scored from the Saatchi fall-out.

This year it is expected to lift profits from pounds 85.3m to pounds 110m, with at least one analyst nudging pounds 150m for next year.

Cordiant, the old Saatchi & Saatchi agency, was unchanged at 105p. Last month it settled its bitter legal wrangle with its founders, Charles and Maurice Saatchi, although most observers took the view that the brothers had got the better of the argument.

The elevation of WPP shares is, however, unlikely to impress its long- standing shareholders. In 1987, before the group ran into trouble and was forced into a capital reconstruction, the shares topped 900p.

The rest of the market also had a lively time with shares pulled higher by another rampant overnight display in New York. At one time the FT-SE 100 index was 33.8 points higher but when New York opened on a subdued note gains were trimmed with the index gain cut to 21.2 at 3,340.6.

Telephone faults at a number of securities houses, including small companies market-maker Winterflood, could also have helped blunt enthusiasm.

Even so, the index close was the highest since February last year, the month it reached its peak of 3,520.3.

The possibility of higher interest rates, although still real, has faded into the background with many observers now convinced the US economy is set for the so-called "soft landing" and any further UK rate increases likely to be modest and some months ahead.

Kingfisher slipped 6p to 451p with a hovering line of 5 million shares continuing to unsettle sentiment. The sale of 440,000 shares by director Michael Hollingbery, whose father founded the troublesome Comet electrical retailing subsidiary, was another unsettling influence. He sold at 452p. The Hollingbery shareholding is now 280,000 shares.

Cable & Wireless, where break-up bid hopes continue to circulate, gained 3p to 425p. Hanson, as the demerger of US Industries became effective, rose 2.25p to 232.5p. The 9p impact of the US split had been discounted with Hanson down from nearly 253p since the start of May. The Bowater packaging and paper group celebrated its new name, Rexam, with a 10.5p gain to 481p.

The array of results generally pleased the market with London International, the healthcare group, up 4.5p at 111.5p and engineer Siebe 21p higher at 622p.

But Boots, lacking the expected share buy-back (or even a bid for Do- It-All), fell 8p to 510p.

WH Smith, which owns half of Do-It-All, fell 9p to 343p.

Chemical group Wardle Storeys gained 35p to 375p on modest demand.

In April it reported a modest gain to pounds 3.4m in interim profits and forecasts for the year stretch to pounds 8.5m.

Rumours of corporate action in the chemical world are never far below the surface and WS could face a predator.

Waters lost some of their recent exuberance as the temptation to take profits proved irresistible but electricals scored modest progress.

Northern Electric fell 7p to 784p as it became clear the Wyster-Pratte attack was set to fizzle out at today's special shareholders' meeting.

Trafalgar House, the potential bidder, looks increasingly unhappy about the whole affair, falling 2p to 47p.

Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television put on 12p to 479p. The group, one of the sector's favourite takeover targets, has appointed Schroders as its merchant banker and is soon to starts a series of investment presentations. It says the current year has started "very strongly". Granada, results next week, rose 10p to 599p.

Vickers, the engineering group responsible for Rolls-Royce cars, purred ahead 6p to 212p following UBS support and suggestions of a closer link with German car giant, BMW.

Textile group Coats Viyella edged ahead 3p to 218p with Smith New Court and UBS positive. The firmness of the cotton price is one factor behind support. The group has paid pounds 675,000 to settle its dispute with Country Casuals, the clothing retailer. CC shares were unchanged at 107p.

Thomas Locker, the engineer, at last responded to the arrival of John Carr, a Scot with building and engineering interests, who has acquired 21.61 per cent. Locker, thought to nurse some rich assets, is, Mr Carr has said, regarded as an "investment". The ordinary shares rose 5p to 23p and the "A" shares 2.5p to 18p.

MR Data Management and Harrington Kilbride, profit warning casualties on Wednesday, staged modest recoveries. The MR rally took the shares up 10p to 65p and Harrington put on 3p to 34p.