G4S leads FTSE lower

THE TOP share index inched down in early trades this morning, hit by firms trading ex-dividend.
Firms trading without the attraction of their latest dividend included British American Tobacco, Hargreaves Lansdown, Land Securities, Meggitt,Serco and Standard Chartered – the biggest faller, down 3.5 per cent – which all weighed on the index.
Outside of the ex-dividends, G4S shouldered a 3.1 per cent fall. This morning it posted an annual operating profit increase of six per cent, excluding the bungled Olympics contract. Including the Olympics contract, pre-tax profits fell by a third.
"Analyst opinion remains favourable in tone. Significant opportunities to help governments cut costs persist, while the group’s track record and diversity should eventually allow it to recover from its own annus horribilis," said Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers.
Elsewhere, engineer Aggreko fell 2.5 per cent, while outsourcer Capita was down 2.35 per cent.
At the other end of the spectrum, insurer Prudential topped the FTSE 100, rising 2.3 per cent, as it released a buoyant set of annual results, causing it to hike its dividend by 16 per cent.
Imperial Tobacco was up 0.8 per cent, while utilities National Grid andSevern Trent rose 0.7 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively.
On the wider index, investors cheered holiday company Thomas Cook’s latest strategy update. The group said it would improve its profits by £350m by 2015, sending its shares up 14.4 per cent.
UK banking shares were mainly in negative territory this morning. HSBC was up 0.84 per cent, RBS was flat, Barclays was down 0.7 per cent whileLloyds Banking Group fell 1.3 per cent.