On a poor week for the wider stock market, UK airline shares lost further altitude, following a profit alert from rival Air France-KLM. International Airlines Group (IAG), owner of British Airways and Iberia, and the low-cost carrier, easyJet, slid after its Paris-based peer slashed guidance for full-year earnings, due to overcapacity issues on its long-range routes.
The alert dented investor confidence in other travel-related stocks. Local Crawley-based TUI Travel also felt the pinch, as did Thomas Cook. Dealers said that nervousness about the Middle East, particularly a possible invasion of Gaza by Israel, also weighed on sentiment towards the sector.
Shares in Greggs slid after announcing that its third biggest shareholder, Troy Asset Management, had offloaded its entire 5.4% stake in the baker. Some 5.5m shares are understood to have been sold at 536½p apiece.
SSP, the business behind the Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza food chains, which has a number of outlets in Sussex, made a successful debut as a listed company with a market value of just under £1bn. Shares in the group, which is led by former WH Smith boss Kate Swann, were priced at 210p, 5.5 times oversubscribed and initial trading was at a premium. Private equity-owner EQT is expected to remain as a major shareholder.
Wall Street has retreated from its recent highs, following the FTSE 100 and European bourses lower amid worries about the health of the Portuguese financial system and other peripheral eurozone nations. Investor concerns are centred on Portugal and the health of Espirito Santo Financial Group (ESFG) and Banco Espirito Santo (BES), the country's biggest-listed lender which has an investment banking business in London.
As equity markets were sold-off investors took shelter in the precious metals miners and physical gold and silver were back in demand.