U.K. stocks fluctuated between gains and losses as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak defied calls for his immediate resignation, increasing concern that the region will become more unstable.
Ocado Group Plc had a record drop as the John Lewis Partnership Plc’s pension fund sold its entire shareholding in the online grocer. Carillion Plc advanced 4.2 percent after agreeing to buy Eaga Plc. Guinness Peat Group Plc surged 8.7 percent after announcing plans to sell assets and return the proceeds to shareholders.
The benchmark FTSE 100 Index slipped 7.95, or 0.1 percent, to 6,012.06 at 9:20 a.m. in London, having earlier risen by the same amount. The gauge has climbed 0.3 percent this week, bringing its rally since March 2009 to 71 percent. The FTSE All- Share Index also fell 0.1 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index advanced 1.1 percent.
Mubarak, 82, reiterated he intends to stay on as president of Egypt until September in a broadcast announcement last night, raising concern his administration will fail to quell unrest that the United Nations says has resulted in 300 deaths over the past two weeks. The protests, inspired by the popular revolt in Tunisia, have sparked concern contagion will grip a region that holds more than 50 percent of the world’s known oil reserves.
“The chance of conflict has increased significantly,” Timothy Ash, head of emerging-markets research at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, wrote in an e-mailed note late yesterday. “Further instability in Egypt will have significant regional consequences, raising concern over possible disruption of trade through the Suez canal, oil prices, the regional peace process and perhaps even further knock-on effects.”
Ocado lost 15 percent to 243.5 pence, the biggest drop since its initial public offering in July, after John Lewis’s pension plan sold its entire stake in the company for 265 pence a share. The fund had 57.3 million Ocado shares, or a 10.4 percent holding, according to Bloomberg data.
Carillion Plc, which manages buildings for companies including BT Group Plc, gained 4.2 percent to 401.4 pence as the company agreed to buy energy-services provider Eaga for about 306.5 million pounds ($492 million).
Guinness Peat Group surged 8.7 percent to 37.5 pence, the biggest gain since June. The owner of the world’s largest thread maker is planning to sell most of its investments and return the proceeds to shareholders. The assets are valued at about 610 million pounds, the company said.
Regal Petroleum Plc lost 1.3 percent to 36.75 pence as Geo- Alliance Oil-Gas Public Ltd. and Heamoor Ltd. said they don’t plan to make a takeover offer for the oil and gas producer.
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