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 16 percent drop as John Lewis Partnership Plc’s pension fund sold its entire shareholding in the online grocer. Centamin Egypt Ltd., a gold company operating in the North African country, sank 4.5 percent. Guinness Peat Group Plc surged 8.7 percent after announcing plans to sell assets and return the proceeds to shareholders.
The benchmark FTSE 100 gained 1.04, or less than 0.1 percent, 6,021.05 as of 1:58 p.m. in London. The gauge has gained 0.4 percent this week, extending its rally since March 2009 to 71 percent. The FTSE All-Share Index also climbed less than 0.1 percent, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index advanced 0.9 percent.
“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.”
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.
Ocado lost 16 percent to 240.1 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.
Centamin Egypt slid 5.7 percent to 132 pence, bringing this week’s drop to 8.3 percent.
Regal Petroleum Plc lost 2 percent to 36.5 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.
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 ($977 million), the company said.
Legal & General Group Plc climbed 3.5 percent to 122.9 pence. Nomura Holdings Inc. said it prefers the insurance company to Prudential Plc.
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