Footsie sheds 20 points

Disappointing results by British Land today meant the London market was unable to build on a recent rally that has driven it to four-high highs.

Disappointing results by British Land today meant the London market was unable to build on a recent rally that has driven it to four-year highs.

British Land triggered an exodus of investors from property stocks after underlying pre-tax profits of £102 million failed to meet expectations in the City for a surplus of £110 million.

Weaker oil and financial stocks also nullified hopes of any progress by the Footsie, which closed 20.7 points lower at 5511.

Analysts said the lacklustre session reflected comments from Bank of England Governor Mervyn King, as he told the Treasury select committee about his continued concerns over the inflationary impact of high oil prices.

With the cost of a barrel of oil just below 59 US dollars today, Royal Dutch Shell and BP were both lower – off 16p and 0.5p at 1923p and 657p respectively.

Mining firms helped offset some of the weakness with BHP Billiton up 9.5p to 884.5p, while Anglo American added 25p to 1876p.

But there was little joy for investors in British Land which lost 3% or 34p to 992.5p and was followed into the red by Land Securities, down 39p at 1557p, and Hammerson losing 16.5p to 971.5p.

Much of today’s activity was outside the top flight, where retailer Halfords cheered investors with news that like-for-like sales had improved in recent weeks. Shares lifted almost 6% or 17.5p to 318.5p.

But elsewhere on the high street, Comet owner Kesa Electricals was in negative spirits, down 6p to 244.5p, after reporting a fall in third quarter sales.

Engineering firm Amec rose 4%, up 15p to 372p as it hoisted the for-sale sign above its Amec Spie division that offers engineering services to companies in the oil and gas, IT, telecoms and nuclear industries among others.

The housebuilding sector was in focus as Persimmon unveiled the £643 million acquisition of rival Westbury in a deal set to create the UK’s biggest housebuilder. Persimmon added 26p to 1084p although Westbury was virtually unchanged, down 3p at 557p after already moving to the offer price.

Commercial radio operator GCap Media was in the doldrums after it sacrificed millions of pounds in revenues by answering pleas for fewer ad breaks. The owner of Capital and Classic slumped 17%, off 59p to 282p.

And shares in City broker Collins Stewart Tullett fell by more than 7% after it said long-running takeover talks had come to an end. The stock lost 45.5p to 574.5p as it said it had terminated all discussions after it became clear potential offers would not satisfy expectations on the value of the firm.

The top flight’s biggest risers were International Power up 5.5p to 249.5p, Smiths Group ahead 17p at 993.5p, Capita Group up 6.5p to 398.5p and Anglo American up 25p to 1876p.

The heaviest fallers were British Land down 34p to 992.5p, Land Securities off 39p to 1557p, Standard Chartered off 22p at 1264p, and Hammerson down 16.5p at 971.5p.

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