FTSE in positive territory

Investors were closely watching developments at the top of two of London’s leading companies today.

Investors were closely watching developments at the top of two of London’s leading companies today.

While BP chief executive Lord Browne confirmed plans to step down in 2008, Vodafone’s boss Arun Sarin was facing a battle to convince shareholders of his merits, as the group staged its annual meeting today.

Despite the boardroom pressures, shares in Vodafone and BP mirrored that of the wider market, which showed the FTSE 100 Index near to its opening mark with a rise of 13.5 points to 5847.4 by mid-morning.

BP shares were 3.5p lower at 630p, as investors gave a mixed response to half-year results and expressed disappointment at Lord Browne’s decision to leave after more than a decade. There had been calls for him to stay beyond his stated retirement date of 2008.

Vodafone shares made further gains as investors continued to warm to yesterday’s first quarter trading update from the company. The mobile phone group was 1.25p higher at 116.5p.

The resilient performance for the wider market came after a leap of 2% yesterday, when investors cheered strong second quarter earnings in the United States benefited from a 4% rise for Vodafone.

A number of the major moves in the top flight today involved mining stocks, with Antofagasta up 6.75p to 397.5p and RioTinto ahead 48p to 2723p.

Shire Pharmaceuticals topped the Footsie risers board after the US Food and Drug Administration backed its treatment for Hunter syndrome, a rare genetic genetic disorder. Shares jumped 5%, or 41p, to 869p.

It was followed higher by British Airways – up 10.75p to 383.75p – following a positive note from Morgan Stanley.

Banking stocks were under pressure ahead of the sector’s half-year reporting season, which kicks off with Northern Rock on Wednesday. Barclays fell 5p to 608.5p while Alliance & Leicester dipped 10p to 1023p.

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