U.K. Stocks Little Changed; Pearson Retreats, Serco Jumps

U.K. stocks were little changed, completing their biggest monthly gain since July, with Pearson Plc falling and Serco Group Plc advancing.

Pearson lost 5.9 percent after saying it wouldn’t emerge from a difficult transition period until 2015. Aggreko Plc dropped 4.3 percent after saying chief executive officer Rupert Soames will leave to join Serco. Serco jumped 12 percent. Old Mutual Plc rallied 5.9 percent after saying it will proceed with an initial public offering for its U.S. asset-management business this year. Mondi Ltd. advanced 5.9 percent after saying it expects higher orders in 2014.

The FTSE 100 Index lost 0.57 point, or less than 0.1 percent, to 6,809.7 at the close in London after earlier falling as much as 0.4 percent. The gauge has risen 4.6 percent this month. The broader FTSE All-Share Index rose 0.2 today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index climbed 1.2 percent.

“The markets have been quite critical of U.K. earnings so far and there’s a tone of caution in the market,” said Mike Franklin, chief investment strategist at Beaufort Securities Ltd. in London. “There’s a lot of underlying strength and resilience, but when there’s bad news the market gets very sensitive to that.”

A consumer-confidence index stayed at minus 7 this month from January, GfK NOP Ltd. said. That matched the median forecast of economists in a Bloomberg News survey.

Pearson retreated 5.9 percent to 1,013 pence. Adjusted operating profit fell 21 percent to 736 million pounds ($1.23 billion) in 2013, the company said in a statement. The publisher of the Financial Times newspaper posted sales of 5.18 billion pounds, missing the 5.8 billion-pound analyst estimate.

Aggreko, Serco

Aggreko, the world’s largest supplier of mobile power generators, declined 4.3 percent to 1,560 pence. Aggreko CEO Soames will take the helm at Serco effective June 1. Serco jumped 12 percent to 460.5 pence.

British Airways parent IAG SA fell 3.3 percent to 437 pence. The company reported an operating profit before one-time items of 770 million euros ($1.1 billion) for last year, missing the average analyst estimate calling for 773 million euros.

Old Mutual rose 5.9 percent to 197.1 pence. Africa’s biggest insurer has been considering an IPO since the U.S. unit reported outflows in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Mondi added 5.9 percent to 1,096 pence. South Africa’s biggest packaging and paper company said operating profit excluding some items rose to 699 million euros in 2013 from a restated 574 million euros a year ago. Sales climbed 12 percent to 6.48 billion euros.

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