The FTSE was lower late morning following soft sessions in New York and Asia overnight, with financial, mining and pharma sectors dominating a fallers' board laden with ex-dividend stocks.
Approaching midday, the FTSE 100 was down 69.73 points, or 1.04%, to 6615.79, while the FTSE 250 fell 125.7 points, or 0.76%, to 16,355.8.
In the US last night, the Dow fell 68 points to 16,351, the Nasdaq shed 27 points at 4,307 and the S&P500 lost 9 points at 1,868. In Asia today, the Nikkei closed down 394 points at 14,830 and the Hang Seng was off 368 points at 21,902.
Ex-dividend blue chips acted as ballast. Land Securities (LAND), Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.), HSBC (HSBA), Meggitt (MGGT), British American Tobacco (BATS), Randgold Resources (RRS) and Hammerson (HMSO) were all in this frame.
Security outfit G4S (GFS) admitted it has spent £136m clearing up the mess caused by contract mismanagement. Its shares withdrew 6.19% to 230.2p. At the centre of G4S’s problems was the electronic tagging scandal where G4S charged for non-existent customers, which saw pretax profit plunge 84.6% to £56m. It still to reach an agreement to lift its ban on tendering for new government contracts.
Among the financial issues, Standard Chartered (STAN), Schroders (SDR), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Barclays (BARC), Old Mutual (OML), Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) and Investec were all down 1.07%-3.76%.
Miners also featured. Glencore Xstrata (GLEN), BHP Billiton (BLT) and Anglo American (AAL) fell 1.1%-2.39%. Pharmaceutical plays Shire (SHP), Smith & Nephew (SN.) and Glaxosmithkline (GSK) were down 1.06%-1.74%.
AstraZeneca (AZN) fell 0.57% to 3993.25p on confirming it was selling its Alderley Park site in Cheshire to Manchester Science Parks for an undisclosed sum.
Prudential (PRU) has booked a FY IFRS pretax profit at actual exchange rates and attributable to shareholders of £1.64bn, down 40% from £2.75bn a year earlier. It hiked its FY dividend by 15% to 33.57p. Total revenue, net of reinsurance, was £52.38bn, from £54.44bn. Benefits and claims totalled £42.23bn, from £44.12bn.
Highly-rated online grocer Ocado (OCDO) soured 5.11% to 542.75p as investors take profits after a storming run. Robust growth was delivered over the 12 weeks to 23 February, with retail sales rising 18% to £218.8 million over the first quarter, during which Ocado helped to launch Morrisons’ (MRW) online ordering service.
Orosur Mining (OMI) said Q3 gold production down 28% year on year to 13,218 oz, in line with guidance. At $818/oz, cash costs were better than planned, coming in under guidance of $850-$1000/oz. Its shares rose 5.17% to 15.25p.
Poundland Group (PLND), the UK single-price retailer, has successfully priced its IPO of 125,000,000 shares at 300p each. Based on the offer price, Poundland's market cap would be £750m. Its shares were trading at 384.63p.
Sinclair IS Pharma (SPH) said US FDA has granted orphan drug designation for Flammacerium for the treatment of patients with severe dermal burns. Its shares responded on the prospect of likely future earnings growth, gaining 2.18% to 29.25p.
Salamander Energy (SMDR), up 4.79% to 104p, said its West Kerendan-1 exploration well has reached total depth and has successfully tested gas from the Upper Berai reservoir.
Having initially rose on publication of its full-year results, mineral sands producer Kenmare Resources (KMR) fell 6.07% to 13.62p as investors remained cautious about the viability of higher selling prices. The shares now trade at a four-year low.
Hochschild Mining (HOC) has suspended the full-year dividend after revenues fell to $622.2m in the 12 months to end-December, down from $818.0m last time. Also down were its shares, by a whopping 13.59% to 170.88p.
Pet food and accessories seller Pets at Home (PETS) fails to enjoy a large share price increase seen with so many other IPOs over the past year. The £1.2 billion retailer initially saw its share price fall on its first day of dealings, now easing back to the 245p IPO price.
Property management franchise Belvoir Lettings (BLV:AIM) fell 7.83% to 153p on a profit warning, caused by its managed service fees missing 2013 targets due to insurance commission delays.
Fashion brand retailer French Connection (FCCN) dropped 1.98% to 61.75p, despite strutting in with better-than-expected full-year figures. Boss Stephen Marks’ turnaround measures are taking effect, as revealed by an improved UK and Europe performance and a loss before tax pared from £10.5m to £6.1m.
Investors liked the appointment of IT industry veteran Steve Vaughan as new Phoenix IT (PNX) chief executive, bidding the shares up 1.87% to 116.13p. Vaughan has a track record for sorting out failing businesses, often selling them on so it looks like the market is starting to speculate about a possible future sale of Phoenix.
Rising operating costs trouble shareholders of eprocurement platform specialist CloudBuy (CBUY:AIM), formerly known as @UK. The shares fell 5.16% to 50.5p despite Asian expansion, alongside partner Visa, helping drive a 35% rise in revenue to £3m. Executive chairman Ronald Duncan remained excited about the future growth potential.
Clean water technology specialist HaloSource (HAL) added 5.88% to 9p after the firm’s preliminary results revealed that group revenue for 2013 increased 21% year-on-year to $16.1m, driven by growth in its Recreational Water and Drinking Water segments.