FTSE up despite unsettled property sector

Shares in UK housebuilders took a fresh hit today after traders reported the sale of seven million shares in leading firm Barratt Developments.

Barratt shares fell 9% – or 19.25p to 200.75p – after the shares were reportedly placed by Citigroup on behalf of a vendor at 208p a share, equivalent to £14.5 million.

The move further unsettled the property sector, with Persimmon down 17.25p at 496.75p, a drop of 3% in the FTSE 100 Index, while second-tier rivals Taylor Wimpey fell 4.25p to 92.25p and Bovis Homes eased 10.5p to 450.5p.

The FTSE 100 Index was in better form, up 8.5 points at 6095.8 by mid-morning.

Possible bid interest in Peroni brewing firm SABMiller caused shares in the London-listed company to jump by more than 7%.

Weekend speculation relating to an approach from InBev, should an offer for Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch fall through, meant SABMiller gained 87p to 1311p.

Vodafone shares were higher for a while after the mobile phone company announced plans for chief executive Arun Sarin to hand over the reins to his deputy Vittorio Colao. While the departure came as a surprise, analysts were hopeful the change will not result in a change in strategy.

Shares later gave back the gains to stand 0.1p lower at 163.85p.

Among the other fallers, Argos and Homebase owner Home Retail Group dipped 6.25p to 225p after the holiday weekend proved a washout for many parts of the country, dashing hopes for a boost in demand for seasonal items.

In the FTSE 250 Index, Northern Foods jumped 2p to 88p after announcing annual profits at the top end of expectations. It was matched on the FTSE 250 Index by Yell, which gained 3.5p to 129.5p amid speculation it could be a bid target for Microsoft.

Elsewhere, Moss Bros dived 11%, or 4.63p to 39.375p, after investment group Baugur said it was no longer interested in a takeover.

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