Britain's FTSE dips after Syria strike; WPP falls on Sorrel exit

Reuters

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    * FTSE 100 down 0.25 pct
    * WPP retreats after CEO quits  
    * Whitbread jumps after hedge fund builds stake
    * Energy stocks weigh as oil prices retreat 

    By Julien Ponthus
    LONDON, April 16 (Reuters) - UK shares eased on Monday
morning, with two corporate events taking centre stage: CEO
Martin Sorrell's exit from advertising company WPP and U.S.
hedge fund Elliott Management raising its stake in hotel and
coffee-shop operator Whitbread.
    The blue chip FTSE 100 index  .FTSE  lost 0.25 percent 
percent to 7,246.23 points by 0833 GMT, with traders across
Europe remaining cautious, fearing that the missile strikes in
Syria could increase tensions between the United States and
Russia.
    Relief over the lack of an immediate escalation pushed oil
prices lower and UK energy stocks took the most points out of
the index. BP  BP.L  was down 1.3 percent and Royal Dutch Shell
 RDSa.L  0.6 percent. 
    After falling by more than 5 percent at the open, shares in
WPP  WPP.L  limited losses to 2.7 percent as investors gauged
how the world's biggest advertising agency would do without its
founder, gone after an allegation of personal misconduct.
    "It is not clear whether the current margin targets or
dividend payout will survive management change," Citi analysts
said in a note, adding that the stock's loss of a third of its
value in the past year could attract "value" investors. 
    Analysts have speculated that the group, which was being
restructured after a year of lower spending from some clients,
could now sell some assets if led by different management.
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N1RR1JC
    Shares in Whitbread  WTB.L  were leading the FTSE with a 6.5
percent rise after activist hedge fund Eliott Management
revealed that it had increased its stake in Britain's biggest
hotel and coffee-shop operator to more than 6 percent. 
    "Its reported push for a (coffee-shop) Costa demerger
differs from the company's current strategy, likely leading to
further speculation, which should support the shares," Morgan
Stanley analysts said.
    The disclosure came nearly three months after Reuters
reported that another activist investor, Sachem Head, wanted
Whitbread's management to examine a break-up to boost the value
of its individual businesses. 
    Shares in Shire  SHP.L , the London-listed pharmaceuticals 
company that specialises in rare diseases, rose about 1 percent
after it announced plans to sell its oncology business to French
drugmaker Servier for $2.4 billion. 
    Shire, has also been flagged as a possible bid target for
Japan's largest drugmaker Takeda Pharma. 
    Sage  SGE.L  was still trading in negative territory, down
2.2 percent after Friday's decline of about 8 percent on a cut
to the company's full-year revenue growth forecast. 

 (Reporting by Julien Ponthus
Editing by David Goodman)
 ((julien.ponthus@thomsonreuters.com; 02075426189; Reuters
Messaging: julien.ponthus.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))
 
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