London Markets: FTSE 100 pulled lower by slump for WPP

U.K. stocks edged down Monday, led lower by a fall in WPP PLC shares after its longtime chief executive, Martin Sorrell, resigned in the face of a probe.

A fall in shares in Sage Group PLC was also dragging on the FTSE 100 index, but a surge for Costa Coffee parent Whitbread PLC on news of an activist investor stake helped limit the drop.

Traders also were assessing the fallout from the airstrikes on Syria that the U.S., U.K. and France conducted late Friday.

How markets are moving

The FTSE 100 UKX, -0.21% inched lower by 0.1% to 7.260.22, erasing a bit of its gain from its three weekly rises in a row. The London benchmark remains down for the year, off by 5.6%.

The pound GBPUSD, +0.3933% traded at $1.4263, up from $1.4239 late Friday in New York.

What’s driving markets

The key geopolitical concern for investors in recent days has been a conflict between Syria and the U.S. and its allies.

Syrian armed forces on Sunday unleashed airstrikes against rebels and shelled what rescue workers said were civilian homes. With the move, President Bashar al-Assad was seeking to demonstrate his regime’s continued strength following the U.S.-led missile attack earlier in the weekend.

See: How the strikes on Syria will impact your stock investments

Expectations for the West to take military action had been building since a suspected chemical-weapons attack killed civilians in Damascus more than a week ago. Analysts have worried about the U.S. ending up in a conflict with Russia, which backs the Syrian regime.

What strategists are saying

“The strikes took place after market close on Friday night/Saturday morning, giving the market time over the weekend to note the limited nature of the attack. Russia has condemned the attack but no further response is expected,” said FxPro analysts in a note Monday.

Stock movers

WPP shares TSCO, -0.09% fell 1.4% for one of the FTSE 100’s biggest drops after Sorrell resigned from his job as CEO of the advertising heavyweight.

Sorrell stepped down in the face of a company investigation into an allegation of personal misconduct. The move ends his more than three decades of leadership at the world’s largest advertising company, which he founded.

Read more: Why probe drove WPP CEO Martin Sorrell to resign

Sage’s stock SGE, -3.14% slumped 2.4% for the FTSE’s largest decline. Shares in the provider of accounting software are adding to Friday’s dive of 8.2%, which came after the company cut its full-year forecast for revenue growth.

On the upside, Whitbread PLC shares WTB, +6.71% jumped 6.3% after Elliott Management said in a statement over the weekend that it has amassed a stake of more than 6% in Britain’s biggest hotel and coffee-shop operator and believes it’s currently the largest investor in the company, whose businesses include the Premier Inn chain.

The development is viewed as adding to the pressure on Whitbread to spin off its Costa Coffee business, because the U.S. activist hedge fund is among the shareholders that has called for that type of move, according to multiple published reports.

Shire PLC shares SHP, +1.21% SHPG, -3.63% rose 1.1% after the pharmaceutical giant said it’s selling its oncology unit for $2.4 billion to privately held French drug company Servier S.A.S.

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