FRIDAY MARKET CLOSE: FTSE flat ahead of tense weekend

Share this article
Have your say

Blue chips William Hill and Pearson highlighted the contrasting fortunes of the latest annual results season and left the FTSE 100 flat for the day.

The index made a stab towards its Monday high point late in the session but fell back to close 0.57 points lower at 6,809.7 as traders factored in a weekend of military tensions in eastern Europe.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC, said: “The general tone in Europe has been one of caution as the situation in the Ukraine and the Crimea continues to keep markets on edge.”

Bookmaker William Hill enjoyed a shares boost after “sparkling” figures from its online arm. Despite annual profits falling 6 per cent to £257 million, shares rallied 22.8p to 397.6p, a rise of 6 per cent.

But textbooks and Financial Times publisher Pearson was suffering hefty losses after it warned over 2014 profits. It was down 6 per cent or 63p at 1,013p after it said pressures in North America were expected to continue due to an ongoing decline in US college enrolments – a trend which also left 2013 pre-tax profits slightly lower.

Temporary power firm Aggreko was also sharply lower after it lost its chief executive Rupert Soames to private security firm Serco. The summer move was welcomed by shareholders of the troubled outsourcing company as the FTSE 250 stock jumped 12 per cent to 460.5p. But Aggreko was down 70p at 1,560p in the top flight.

British Airways-owner International Airlines Group was also in the spotlight after it moved back into profit and reported “huge progress” in the turnaround of Spanish carrier Iberia. Despite posting operating profit of €770m (£631m), against the €23m loss seen a year earlier, the shares slipped 14.8p to 437p following a recent strong run for the stock.