UPDATE 1-Britain's FTSE dips after Syria strike; WPP falls on Sorrel exit

Reuters

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    * FTSE 100 down 0.9 pct at close
    * WPP retreats after CEO quits  
    * Whitbread jumps after hedge fund builds stake
    * Energy stocks weigh as oil prices retreat 

 (Updates with closing prices, adds detail and quote)
    By Julien Ponthus and Kit Rees
    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  ended the session down
0.9 percent at 7,198.20 points, with traders across Europe
remaining cautious, fearing that the weekend's 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 followed suit. BP  BP.L  was
down 1.6 percent and Royal Dutch Shell  RDSa.L  0.7 percent. 
    Shares in WPP ended 6.5 percent down 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
    
    WHITBREAD JUMPS
    Shares in Whitbread  WTB.L  led the FTSE with a 7.2 percent
rise after activist hedge fund Elliott 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 before paring
gains to end 1.3 percent down after announcing 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. 
    "Oncology was an area Takeda had specifically highlighted in
its rationale for a deal, so whether by accident or design
Shire’s latest move could undermine the logic behind the
transaction," said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.
    Steelmaker Evraz  EVRE.L  fell by 7 percent as jitters over
U.S. sanctions against Russia continued to weigh on companies
with exposure to the country.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N1RS08K
    Sage  SGE.L  was still trading in negative territory, down 3
percent after Friday's decline of about 8 percent on a cut to
the company's full-year revenue growth forecast. 

 (Reporting Julien Ponthus and Kit Rees
Editing by David Goodman)
 ((kit.rees@thomsonreuters.com; +44 207 542 2784;))
 
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