Johnson Matthey tops flat FTSE

THE TOP share index was broadly flat in early trading, with speciality chemicals maker Johnson Matthey leading the pack, as trade remained cautious given concerns about a potential run on Cyprus’s banks.

The FTSE 100-listed company rose 3.9 per cent as it said it had bought Formox, a Sweden-based specialist chemical company for £107m.

InterContinental Hotels Group climbed almost two per cent as it announced it had sold the Park Lane Hotel for £301.5m.

Utility National Grid was up 1.3 per cent as it said it expects its earnings forecast to be ahead of its previous expectations.

On the wider index, African conglomerate Lonrho rose 26 per cent as it posted a 32 per cent lift in revenue for the final quarter.

Weighing on the index this morning was consumer group Reckitt Benckiser, which fell 2.8 per cent.

Eurasian Natural Resources, which fell earlier this week as fellow miner Kazakhmys said it would take a $2.22bn write-down on its stake, was down 2.4 per cent.

Fellow miners Antofagasta – which yesterday said it would resume construction of its Antucoya copper mine after halting the project in December to carry out a cost review – and Vedanta sank 1.85 per cent and 1.75 per cent respectively.

Media company ITV was off 1.1 per cent.

UK banking shares were broadly flat in early trading. Both HSBC andRBS rose 0.04 per cent, Barclays was up 0.1 per cent and Lloyds Banking Group was off by 0.03 per cent.

In Asia, the Nikkei closed down 1.26 per cent and in the US the Dow Jones closed down 0.23 per cent.