MONDAY MARKET CLOSE: Footsie falls amid Greek debt talks

German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. Picture: Getty
German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. Picture: Getty
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Britain’s benchmark FTSE 100 share index retreated from close to its all-time high as fresh debt restructuring talks between Greece and its European creditors kicked off amid gloom over the potential outcome.

German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said at a meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels: “I am very sceptical because the Greek government apparently hasn’t moved at all.”

The Footsie ended the session down 16.47 points at 6,857.05 having been within 60 points of an all-time high on Friday.

The Greek fears meant European markets failed to benefit from new figures showing Japan was no longer in recession.

David Madden, market analyst at IG, said: “Trading volumes were low in London and across continental Europe as the public holiday in the US kept traders on this side of the Atlantic sitting on the fence.

“Greece is going through the motions again as the nation enters another meeting over its debt, which will most likely turn out to be unproductive.”

Centrica was one of the session’s biggest blue-chip fallers – down 8.2p to 278.8p – after Citi trimmed its target price on the stock ahead of the Scottish Gas owner’s annual results later this week.

Centrica’s operating profits are expected to slide 29 per cent to £1.9 billion, driven by a weaker performance from its domestic energy supply business as warmer weather caused customers to use less energy than a year ago.

SSE was impacted by the downgrade as its shares fell 31p to 1,537p, while National Grid dropped 10.6p to 879.6p and United Utilities fell 13.5p to 940.5p.

Banking stocks dominated the risers’ board as shares in HSBC added 2.9p to 601.1p, Lloyds Banking Group rose 0.38p to 75.7p and Barclays lifted 2.35p to 258.8p.

Elsewhere, shares in William Hill rose by 2.9p to 385.6p after it emerged that the bookmaker had failed with its attempt to buy online casino operator 888.

Its proposal would have valued 888, whose brands include Pacific Poker, 888ladies bingo and 888sport, at 200p per share or £709 million, with a dividend adding an extra £10.6m sweetener for shareholders.

However, the talks collapsed due to the opposition of a major stakeholder, causing shares in 888 Holdings to slide by 11 per cent or 19p to 150.8p.

Property firm Hammerson said its pre-tax profits jumped 106 per cent to £703.1m in the year to the end of December.

However, these results were in line with forecasts and did not prevent its shares slipping 6p to 685p.

The biggest gain of the session in the FTSE 250 Index belonged to Jimmy Choo as shares in the luxury goods brands surged 4 per cent or 6.5p to 170.5p.