One way and another, the miners stole the show on the British stock markets yesterday. First up was Cairn Energy, the frustrated Greenland driller, which provided some grist to the City rumour mill through suggestions that it was in the process of selling just under half of its remaining 18.3 per cent stake in Cairn India for up to $940m (£580m).
Cairn is likely to use much, if not all, of the cash it raises to explore new areas, after its campaign to find commercial quantities of oil off Greenland have repeatedly come up dry – although it hasn't given up on the Arctic altogether.
Although Cairn isn't saying anything, the word on the street is that Citigroup is working on the company's behalf to sell an 8 per cent stake in its Indian unit, following the sale of a 3.5 per cent chunk for about $360m in June. Last year, Cairn sold a controlling stake in Cairn India to the London-listed miner Vedanta Resources in an $8.7bn deal. Cairn's investors greeted the imminent windfall with reasonably muted enthusiasm, sending its shares up by 1.2p to end the day at 285p.
Elsewhere, mining stocks fell more generally yesterday, as fears about the global outlook pulled down the value of diggers and related raw material makers more or less across the board.
Evraz, the Russian steel maker part-owned by Chelsea Football club controller Roman Abramovich, was among the biggest casualties, tumbling by 10.4p to 261.5p. The miners' woes continued elsewhere, as Rio Tinto fell 61p to 2,980p, BHP Billiton was down 8.5p at 1,948.5p, Anglo American lost 50.5p to 1,887.5p and Fresnillo 30p to 1,803p.
The declines mean that the UK-listed mining sector as a whole has fallen by 5 per cent since the release of weak manufacturing data out of China, the world's top consumer of metals, last Thursday. The weak Chinese data combined with more general fears about the global economic outlook to offset the expected impact of a new US Federal Reserve asset buying programme and a signal from the Bank of Japan yesterday that it will act boldly and flexibly when necessary to support its economy.
The Bank of Japan's deputy govenor Hirohide Yamaguchi said: "As has been the case up until now, we will take bold and flexible action when necessary, while scrutinising the outlook for the economy and prices as well as risks."
Another miner that fell heavily was ENRC, the Kazakh mining conglomerate, which declined by 13.9p to 330.6p. However, at least part of that decline is thought to stem from reports that the group has shelved plans to split the company in two as a result of market conditions and lower production volumes.
The decline in mining stocks helped drag down the FTSE 100 index by 13.7 points, or 0.24 per cent, to 5,838.84 points, amid concerns about the apparent dischord between France and Germany over how to rescue the eurozone.
The engineering group GKN also contributed to the decline of the blue-chip index, falling by 7.1p to 218.9p as Investec cut its rating on the stock from "buy" to "neutral" and reduced its target price to 240p from 245p.
Among the risers, the Lookers car dealership edged up by 3.75p to 73.5p after it emerged that George Soros had bought a 4.54 per cent stake in the company.
Pharmaceutical and medical companies were also in demand as investors sought safe bets in the face of concerns about the eurozone.
Shares in Shire increased by 31p to close at 1,845p, while Smith and Nephew rose by 7p to 693p. AstraZeneca, the FTSE 100's pharmaceuticals giant, rose by 20.5p to end the day at 2,962.5p.
Meanwhile, one of Russia's largest privately owned lenders, Promsvyazbank (PSB), said it would proceed with an initial public offering by selling its shares in Moscow and global depositary receipts (GDRs) in London.
The bank said it planned to use the proceeds to strengthen its capital to support ongoing development, although it did not disclose when it intends to list or how much it hopes to raise. Some 88.3 per cent of the shares of PSB are owned by brothers Dmitry and Alexey Ananyev. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) owns the remainder of the shares.
PSB had considered an IPO before the global banking crisis of 2008-2009 but postponed it as the crisis unfolded.
FTSE 100 Risers
GlaxoSmithKline 1442p (up 5p, 0.35 per cent) The pharmaceuticals giant benefited from a wave of, admittedly mild, positive sentiment towards safe bets, amid fears about the eurozone crisis.
Diageo 1724p (up 1.5p, 0.1 per cent) The drinks giant ticked up amid rumours that it was in talks to buy a stake in the Indian drinks group United Spirits.
FTSE 100 Fallers
Royal Bank of Scotland 271.5p (down 4.3p, 1.5 per cent) The banking giant saw its shares drift down as it increased its target for cuts at its investment banking arm by 300 to 3,800 jobs by the end of 2013.
Antofagasta 1260p (down 16p, 1.25 per cent) The miner suffered from generally poor sentiment towards diggers, in the aftermath of weak Chinese manufacturing data on Thursday.
FTSE 250 Risers
Petra Diamonds 118p (up 8.3p, 7.6 per cent) The gem company jumped after telling the market it expected production in the year to next June to grow by 30 per cent.
William Hill 314.8p (up 2.8p, 0.9 per cent) Shares rose in the bookmaker amid reports that it was considering asking shareholders for more than £200m to help fund a planned acquisition of rival company Sportingbet.
FTSE 250 Fallers
Dunelm 662p (down 23p, 3.4 per cent) Shares in Dunelm Group fell despite a positive note from JPMorgan which increased its price target on the homewares chain from 510p to 590p.
Man Group 86.5p (down 1.55p, 1.75 per cent) The hedge fund manager fell as it unveiled details of a restructuring plan aimed at streamlining its bloated capital base and increasing its financial flexibility.Reuse content