Another senior manager has left Emap, days after David Arculus, twin architect of Emap's dizzy rise to media stardom, quit to become chief operating officer at Lord Hollick's United News & Media.
News of Mr Arculus' departure was enough to knock pounds 87m, or 5 per cent, off Emap's market value, but the shares fell a further 20.5p to 749.5p yesterday on a weekend press report that Tom Moloney, boss of the consumer magazine division, was also on his way.
The article proved wide of the mark, but fears that all is not well on the good ship Emap grew with confirmation that John Thater, managing director of Emap Media, had also resigned. He will replaced by Tony Harris, former boss of Emap Computing. There was even talk that Mr Arculus had poached Mr Thater, though United said it was unaware of any such appointment.
Management upheaval is nothing at Emap. Last year two rebel non-executive directors were thrown off the board.
Analysts said the latest defection was relatively minor, but they noted investors were using the latest upheavals in personnel as an excuse to take profits.
Other media stocks bucked the generally weak trend, helped by a report that ITV companies could see their annual payments to the Treasury halved by as early as 1999. Yorkshire Tyne-Tees, one of the highest licence bidders, firmed 12.5p to 1285p and Carlton advanced 17p to 541.5p while Scottish TV ended 11.5p better at 652.5p.
The FTSE 100, down 21 points at one stage, rallied to close above the 4300 mark at the day's best level, down just 1.2 at 4307.1. The recovery mirrored that on Wall Street, which opened almost 50 points adrift before moving back into positive territory.
Turnover was heavy at 1.44 billion shares, boosted by share buy-backs in Yorkshire Water and Southern Electric.
NatWest was the main talking point after its after-hours revelation on Friday of a pounds 50m hole in its options trading book. The shares were the poorest blue-chip performers, shedding 27p to 731.5p on hefty volume of 14.5 million. HSBC James Capel changed its recommendation on NatWest to hold from buy, while even NatWest Markets, its own investment banking arm, prefers Barclays or Lloyds.
Adverse sentiment affected other banks, notably HSBC, owner of Midland Bank, which fell 30p to 152p despite reporting full-year results at the top end of the range. There were signs of further switching into Standard Chartered, up 24.5p at 866p, for its Far East exposure.
Abbey National was also in the doldrums, losing 6p to 749.5p as Goldman Sachs said sell and rival US investment bank Lehman reiterated its cautious stance.
Away from company results, football shares largely mirrored clubs' weekend performance on the pitch. Sunderland's 1-0 defeat at fellow Premiership strugglers Blackburn sent the shares tumbling 15p to 717.5p while Loftus Road sank 6.5p to 65p as its First Division QPR lost at home to Oldham. Tottenham Hotspur dipped a penny to 114.5p after losing at home to Notts Forest.
AIM-listed Trocadero was shoved a penny higher to 40p. Disappointing results since its a retail and entertainment emporium was opened in London's Piccadilly last year has led to profit downgrades, but the stock is being tipped by Leeds-based broker Redmayne Bentley as a short-term recovery play. Having recently bought Enid Blyton, the company with the rights to the children's book characters, a demerger could be on the cards.
The broker also likes Dana Petroleum, up 1p at 20.5p. Dana has big oil assets in Russia which are expected to be put at 28p a share, though within three years this could rise to 56p on expected production of 20,000 barrels a day. The main downside, of course, is political risk. But shares in fellow Russian explorer JKX Oil & Gas slumped 40p to 59p as the market reacted badly to Friday night's news of a pounds 14.2m rights issue and lacklustre results.
Two companies fell for US suitors. Forward Group attracted a 230p-a-share offer from PCB Investments valuing the printed circuit board manufacturer at pounds 129m. The shares shot up 61p to 225p. And headhunters Michael Page fell into arms of Interim Services Inc, who made an agreed bid for a staggering pounds 346m. The shares closed at the 550p offer price, up 55p.
It was a bad day for AIM stocks as dealings in Alpha Omikron, Chartwell International and Loox were suspended. All three must find new nominated advisers soon or face expulsion.
Four days after announcing the deal, VideoLogic finally got round to formally telling the Stock Exchange about a pounds 15m investment by Japanese electronic giant NEC in its PowerVR game developer programme. The shares closed 2.5p higher at 63p after touching 68p.
The blizzard of deals at MAID continues. The on-line information provider has teamed up with the South China Post to design and implement its Internet business service to be launched in the second quarter. MAID will get undisclosed annual fees, subscriptions and royalties. But the news, and support from Merrill Lynch, did nothing to stop the share price slide. As high as 341p last summer, the stock fell 8.5p to 170p as worries persist about the level of this year's profits.
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