U.K. Stocks Decline Fourth Day on Ukraine as G4S Retreats

U.K. stocks dropped for a fourth day to a one-month low as Russia hardened its stance on Ukraine and companies including British American Tobacco Plc and HSBC Holdings Plc traded without the latest dividend rights.

G4S Plc tumbled the most since July after saying it is yet to strike a deal with the U.K. authorities in a fraud investigation. A gauge of London-listed commodity producers fell to its lowest level in five weeks. Eight ex-dividend stocks on the FTSE 100 Index shaved 19.64 points off the benchmark gauge. Prudential Plc rose 2.7 percent after posting full-year profit that exceeded estimates.

The FTSE 100 slipped 64.62 points, or 1 percent, to 6,620.9 at the close of trading in London, its lowest level since Feb. 10. The benchmark gauge has declined 3.6 percent from its 14-year high on Feb. 24 amid investor concern the Russian military intervention in Ukraine will disrupt global business and trade. The broader FTSE All-Share Index also slid 1 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index lost 1.1 percent.

“The situation in Crimea and a few disappointing corporate earnings are weighing on equity markets today,” said Ramiro Loureiro, a Lisbon-based market analyst at Banco Comercial Portugues SA’s Millennium unit. “Investors will continue to be hesitant as tensions in Crimea escalate and the region prepares to vote this weekend on a possible separation from Ukraine.”

Russian Counter

The Russian Foreign Ministry said yesterday that U.S. aid to the acting government in Kiev would violate American law, defining last month’s departure of Viktor Yanukovych from the country’s presidency as a coup.

Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk meets U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington today. He will travel to New York tomorrow to address the United Nations Security Council.

Ukraine says Russia has as many as 19,000 Russian troops in the Crimea region. The Crimean parliament has called a referendum on March 16 to decide whether to leave Ukraine and join Russia.

G4S fell 5.3 percent to 232.5 pence, taking its losses this year to 11 percent. The security-services company said it continues talks with the authorities on a probe into its electronic-tagging contract and has made a provision in its books. The U.K. Serious Fraud Office opened a criminal investigation last year on allegations G4S overcharged the government for the tagging of prisoners. The provision boosted 2013 charges to 386 million pounds ($641 million).

Commodity Producers

The FTSE 350 Mining Index fell 0.4 percent. BHP Billiton Ltd. dropped 1.1 percent to 1,793 pence. Glencore Xstrata Plc retreated 1.2 percent to 309.5 pence, its lowest price in two months.

HSBC, British American Tobacco, and Standard Chartered Plc all traded ex-dividend today, contributing the most to the FTSE 100’s decline.

Poundland Group Plc, the discount retailer partially owned by U.S. buyout firm Warburg Pincus LLC, surged 23 percent to 370 pence on its London trading debut. Pets at Home Group Plc slipped 2.9 percent to 238 pence on its first day of listing.

Prudential advanced 2.7 percent to 1,398 pence, its highest price since at least 1988, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The U.K.’s biggest insurer said operating profit climbed 17 percent to 2.95 billion pounds last year, exceeding the 2.83 billion-pound median estimate of analysts surveyed by the company. Prudential also increased its final dividend 15 percent to 23.84 pence a share.

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