The end of lengthy searches for top bosses at blue chips ITV and Marks & Spencer provided the focus in an otherwise quiet session for the FTSE 100 Index today.
Retail giant M&S shot up the risers board and sent Morrisons into the doldrums after announcing it was poaching its rival’s boss Marc Bolland to be its new chief executive.
ITV was also given a boost after naming former Asda boss Archie Norman as its new chairman, but the moves failed to keep the Footsie in positive territory - down 3.8 points to close at 5342.1.
News that Bank of England policymakers were divided over the scale of its money-boosting scheme this month failed to provide much direction, while the proposed Financial Services Bill – outlined in today’s Queen’s Speech – had little impact on market sentiment.
Under the Bill, bankers will see excessive pay and bonus contracts torn up if they promote undue risk-taking, but this had no bearing on bank shares.
Slim gains seen earlier in the session were also pared back after a lower open for the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wall Street.
Among London stocks, M&S shares soared 6% after its unexpected announcement that Mr Bolland will succeed executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose, who will continue at the firm as part-time chairman. The retailer rose 21.7p to 390p.
Mr Bolland, who joined Morrisons in September 2006 as chief executive, has been credited with reviving the fortunes of the supermarket chain. Bradford-based Morrisons lost more than 5% on the news of his departure, down 14.6p at 280.9p.
In the FTSE 250, ITV shares were 3% higher following its leadership announcement amid optimism over Mr Norman’s “turnaround” credentials.
Mr Norman, whose first job will be to find ITV a chief executive as part of the replacement of executive chairman Michael Grade, is well regarded in the City after turning Asda into the UK’s second biggest supermarket chain and readying telecoms firm Energis for a sale to Cable & Wireless. ITV shares rose 1.8p to 53.75p.
Cadbury moved higher after confirmation from confectioners Hershey and Ferrero that they were considering their options over the firm.
A possible counter bid would be a blow to Oreos and Toblerone maker Kraft, which went hostile with a £9.8bn (€10.9bn) offer for Cadbury last week. Shares rose 9.5p to 797.5p.
In company results, retail chain Mothercare failed to hold on to gains seen earlier after it reported an 11% rise in half-year profits. This was accompanied by plans for a further 33 new Parenting Centres in the UK over the next two years, but the group closed down 0.5p at 625.5p.
The biggest Footsie risers were Marks & Spencer up 21.7p at 390p, Fresnillo ahead 43p at 920p, Xstrata up 52p at 1127p and Lonmin up 61p at 1744p.
The biggest Footsie fallers were Capita Group down 39.5p at 721p, Morrisons off 14.6p at 280.9p, Wolseley down 50p at 1323p and Royal Bank of Scotland down 1.32p at 36.465p.