MOBILE PHONES had an anguished ring as the stock market fretted about increased regulatory interference. Vodafone fell 27p (after 42p) to 698p; Orange 14p to 567p and BT, which controls Cellnet, 9p to 787p. Securicor, with the Cellnet minority, lost 13p to 367p.
Dave Edmonds, director general of telephone regulator Oftel, expressed concern over the weekend about the level of competition in the industry and said he intended to probe the mobile phone industry in the New Year. Due to the mobile phone retreat telecoms was the worst performing sector, falling almost 1.4 per cent.
The rest of the market, despite busy trading with share turnover again topping 1 billion, turned in a muted display, ignoring a buoyant New York. Footsie struggled to a 32.5 points gain to 5,093.5, and the mid cap index rose 24.1 to 4,553. But for the small caps it was another dismal session with the index hitting a new low this year, down 8.9 to 2,002.6. Hopes of an interest rate cut, possibly half-a-point, spurred American shares.
Norwich Union, the insurance group, was one of the best performing blue chips, strengthening 27p to 460p as take-over stories resurfaced.
Once again Halifax, which won Westminster clearance for its take- over of Birmingham Midshires Building Society, was the name in the frame. With the mortgage market becoming increasingly competitive the old building societies are finding it increasingly difficult to hold their market share. As margins continue to narrow they are thought to be casting around for diversification and insurance is seen as a likely direction for the likes of Halifax, down 8.5p to 753.5p.
Glaxo Wellcome shaded 5p to 1,703p after confirming it had developed a treatment, Relenza, which shortens the life of the flu bug and reduces its impact. The pharmaceutical giant also reported positive developments on the HIV front.
Boots firmed 14p to 1,008p ahead of meetings with analysts and Kingfisher added 8p to 533p with SG Securities putting a 600p tag on the shares.
Cadbury Schweppes was lowered 13.5p to 775p after Merrill Lynch lost some of its enthusiasm, and Coca-Cola Beverages rose 3p to 155.5p despite BT Alex.Brown's sell advice. The investment house has, following Friday's uninspiring trading statement from the parent Coca-Cola group, reduced its estimates of today's half-year profits to a bottom-of-the-range pounds 16m. Some houses are looking for pounds 22m.
Tate & Lyle, the sugar group, failed to respond to Lehman Brothers' enthusiasm, shading to 319.5p. The securities group put a 600p target on the shares.
Booker, the struggling cash and carry chain, greeted the arrival of John Napier, chairman, and Stuart Rose, chief executive, with a 15p gain to 106.5p. The dream team has plenty of scope for improvement; Booker's shares were 479p five years ago.
TLG, the lighting group, fell 11.5p to …