European stocks ended lower on Monday, as traders weighed the limited strikes on the Syrian regime over the weekend and the potential for additional U.S. sanctions against Russia. Shares in Whitbread PLC surged after a U.S. activist hedge fund increased its stake in the British hotel and coffee-shop operator, The U.K.’s FTSE 100 slid 0.9% to 7,198.20 as the pound rallied to $1.4323 from $1.4239 late Friday in New York. The euro rose to $1.2368 from $1.2331 on Friday. 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, as President Bashar al-Assad sought to demonstrate his regime’s continued strength following the U.S.-led missile attack earlier in the weekend. Expectations for the Western strike had been building since a suspected chemical-weapons attack killed civilians in Syria more than a week ago. Analysts have worried about the U.S. ending up in a conflict with Russia, which backs the Middle Eastern nation’s regime. The U.S. has said it would launch a round of fresh sanctions on Russia and target companies tied to the Syrian regime and its chemical weapons. However, analysts said the missile attack over the weekend was considered a one-off, calming fears of a wider conflict. Whitbread shares jumped 7.2% 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. Elliott also said it believes it’s currently the largest investor in the company, whose businesses include the Premier Inn chain and Costa Coffee 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. Polymetaltumbled 9.5% after the Russia-based miner said it would swap its Tarutingold deposit in that country for 85% of Russian Copper Co.’s copper-gold East Tarutindeposit in Kazakhstan. The London-listed stock is down 15% so far in April, as Russian-related assets have suffered a selloff following another round of U.S. sanctions against Russian entities and individuals. WPP shares fell 6.5% after its longtimechief executive, Martin Sorrell, resigned from his job 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.
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