Yorkshire-Tyne Tees TV saga nears final episode

One of the stock market's longest running soap operas could be close to its final episode.

Shares of Yorkshire-Tyne Tees TV surged 75p to 1,238p, a peak. The warrants, entitling holders to one share at 200p, gained 72p to 1,030p. The excitement was generated by stories Granada, off 11p to 849p, would today mount its long expected take over strike.

Said one trader: "Every spiv in the market is trying to buy the shares; they expect a 1.400p a share offer."

Granada is seen as set to bid once the new Broadcasting Bill becomes law this month. But the giant leisure group could be excused for taking the view it is already free to move in on Yorkshire. In a little noticed move last week, Trade Secretary Ian Lang in effect cleared Granada's aggressive share buying spree in February which took its Yorkshire stake above the legal limit to nearly 25 per cent with some of the shares parked in a "deadlock" company. Yorkshire shares were then 1,148p.

Granada left the rest of the broadcasting industry looking flat footed when it increased its Yorkshire stake. The regional television group has for long been regarded as a big prize for the TV barons. United News & Media no doubt nursed hopes of eventually capturing the company, building a 13. 8 per cent interest.

It could be argued Granada has its work cut out absorbing Forte, the catering and hotel group it took over after a furious pounds 3.9bn encounter, early this year.

But there are signs more hotel sales are near, lowering the group's sky high borrowings. And Granada has let it be known it is not at all disturbed by its already high gearing and it feels it could comfortably accommodate the pounds 750m Yorkshire acquisition.

There were, as always, suggestions the speculators may have their wires crossed. Granada is thought to have re-arranged much of its debt burden at more favourable terms and an announcement about the new financing is imminent. Such a move could have misled some of those so busily chasing Yorkshire shares.

The FT-SE 100 index barely stirred, moving just 0.1 point higher; the second line index fared a little better.

Trading was moderate with turnover inflated by special share deals. A 60 million buyback by Argyll went smoothly; so did a 41.5 million exercise involving Jarvis Hotels.

But Jarvis, which came the market only a fortnight ago, found itself the centre of controversy as Candover, the venture capitalist which backed the group in its early days, unloaded its 25 per cent shareholding through UBS and SBC Warburg.

Jarvis opened its market life at a premium of 15p to its 175p flotation price and there must be speculation whether the share sale would have been so well received if it had been known Candover intended to be such a quick fire seller.

It was suggested the market, meaning institutional investors, was aware of Candover's short term ambitions. Yet there is no doubt many of the small investors who applied for the shares were blissfully ignorant of the pending sale.

The placing was executed at 170p, prompting those who paid 175p to feel peeved.

Argyll, the Safeway superstores chain, indulged in a share buyback through Barclays de Zoete Wedd and Panmure Gordon. The securities groups had no difficulty picking up the 60 million shares (5.25 per cent) at 346p.

The two placings accounted for more than 200 million of the day's share trading.

In a dull drugs sector Zeneca shaded 6p to 1,434p after reporting its new treatment for advanced breast cancer had been approved for use in Austria, Germany and Italy.

Vocalis, a speech recognition products group, made a strong debut; against a 95p placing price the shares closed at 118p. Independent British Healthcare had a volatile start. The shares touched 95p, ending at 70p. Deals were undertaken at 69.5p and 67p. On Ofex Cambridge Mineral Resources traded at 5.5p.

Warburg did a demolition job on George Wimpey. A profits downgrading the day after the building industry had been spurred by optimistic housing forecasts chopped the shares 12p to 147p.

Arjo Wiggins Appleton eased 2p to 176p on reports of a cautious analysts meeting and Boots investment presentation left the shares a shade firmer at 587p. James Capel lifted its forecast for HSBC from pounds 4.1bn to pounds 4.4bn; the shares rose 15p to 1,028p.

Meconic, the speciality chemical group, jumped 32p to 267p following a pounds 6m acquisition of a corrosive chemicals business.

TAKING STOCK

Tradepoint, the small order-driven rival to the Stock Exchange, had its second busiest day since it started trading, turning over 7.5 million shares with deals in Granada catching the eye. Its best ever session occurred just after last year's launch. Tradepoint's shares held at 140p; they have recently felt the weight of selling from Canada reflecting the likely delisting in Vancouver where the company achieved much of its early backing.

Servisair, operating ground support services to large airlines, should continue to push profits higher, believes stockbroker Wise Speke. It looks for pounds 7.4m this year and pounds 9m next. The company faces only limited competition, allowing margins to widen. The shares were little changed at 376p. They came to market at 135p in October 1994.

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