Lacklustre end for FTSE

London stocks ended the week in lacklustre form today after a major share sale sent oil heavyweight BP lower.

London stocks ended the week in lacklustre form today after a major share sale sent oil heavyweight BP lower.

The UK’s largest stock weighed on the FTSE 100 Index after the government of Kuwait cashed in on BP’s rapid rise by selling £1.2bn (€1.78bn) of the oil giant’s shares.

The Footsie closed 13.7 points lower at 5517.4 as gains by a series of retailers failed to lift sentiment.

BP weakened 11p to 640p after Kuwait said it was selling 185 million shares, equivalent to 0.89% of the group’s entire issued capital, in order to “rebalance its international investment portfolio”. It was joined on the way down by Shell, which lost 29p to 1886p.

Other blue-chip fallers included catering giant Compass – off 3.25p to 210.75p after a US committee called for a further investigation into allegations over buying practices.

But the lacklustre mood failed to put punters off online gaming giant PartyGaming, which climbed almost 2% or 2.5p to 138.75p as brokers upgraded their forecasts after it revealed yesterday that the addition of new games had helped it rake in more profits than expected over the summer. This progress followed gains of 16% by PartyGaming yesterday.

A series of retailers were on the rise, building on gains made earlier in the week. Argos owner GUS stood behind BP at the top of the Footsie risers board, up more than 3% or 34.5p to 970.5p. It was followed by Morrisons, which cheered 6.25p to 182.25p.

Elsewhere, positive words on the housing market helped banking group Bradford & Bingley to advance.

Mortgage specialist B&B rose 4% or 19.25p higher to 403p after reporting a “significant improvement” in lending completions in the past six months.

Upmarket developer Berkeley was also higher after saying demand for new homes was stable over the summer on the back of historically low interest rates and strong employment. The news sent shares in Berkeley 3.5p higher to 1010p.

Retailer French Connection slumped 5% or 13.5p to 261.5p when it put out a profits warning after sales continued to disappoint in the run up to Christmas.

Virgin Mobile shares remained high amid speculation NTL may raise its offer price or that another suitor may enter the fray. Shares closed unchanged at 355p, 14% higher than its position at the start of the week.

And London Stock Exchange was more than 1% higher – up 7p at 619p – after dismissing a £1.48bn (€2.2bn) takeover proposal from an Australian bank as derisory and lacking any commercial sense. Directors of the LSE said they had rejected a 580p-a-share indicative offer from Macquarie Bank with less than a week to go until a deadline for a firm bid for the exchange expires.

The highest Footsie risers today were WPP up 23.5p to 616p, GUS 34.5p rising to 970.5p, Morrisons up 6.25p to 182.25p and Tesco adding 8.5p to 327.5p.

The heaviest fallers were Kelda Group off 13.5p to 733p, Friends Provident down 3.25p to 187.5p, BP off 11p to 640p and British Airways down 5.5p to 332.25p.

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