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* FTSE 100 down 0.1 pct
* Shire jumps on Takeda bid hopes
* Mid caps also see deal-making, earnings flurry
By Kit Rees
LONDON, April 12 (Reuters) - Britain’s top share index dipped on Thursday as gains for Shire on the back of bid speculation were outweighed by falls for ex-dividend stocks and broader nervousness around trade and Syria.
Britain’s blue chip FTSE 100 index was down 0.1 percent at 7,249.81 points by 0900 GMT, as a number of stocks going ex-dividend, such as Reckitt Benckiser, ITV and Paddy Power Betfair, weighed.
The FTSE declined in line with the broader European stock market, as concerns over possible U.S. military action in Syria over a suspected poison gas attack kept investors on edge.
“There aren’t any massive moves (on equity benchmarks) taking place, and I think that is because the market is caught a little bit between a rock and a hard place,” Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group, said.
“You’ve got the trade concerns on one side ... and you’ve got the threat of a military conflict in Syria, so while that’s top of the agenda it’s hard so see how the market can pave out a road to recovery.”
A flurry of deal-making kept things interesting among single stocks, with pharma group Shire the biggest FTSE gainer, up 3 percent, after sources told Reuters that Japan’s Takeda has sounded out its major creditors for loan as it moves towards a bid for the London-listed rare-disease specialist.
“Healthcare in itself is going through an on-going period of assets swaps and consolidation. The UK houses some of the biggest pharma companies out there, so naturally it’s going to be involved,” London Capital Group’s Lawler said.
Likewise shares in British bus and rail operator FirstGroup jumped around 7 percent after a takeover offer from U.S. private equity firm Apollo Global Management, while Playtech was up 8.5 percent after it bought a stake in Italian betting and gaming firm Snaitech for 846 million euros ($1.05 billion).
A series of well-received earnings updates also added fuel to British mid caps.
Shares in retailer Dunelm rose 10.8 percent after it reported a jump in third-quarter online sales which boosted revenue growth.
British retailers have come under pressure as they have grappled with the popularity of online shopping at a time when consumers are cutting back on spending due to a rise in inflation.
Travel group Saga was another gainer, up 6.4 percent, after reporting a small rise in full-year pretax profit, while Greene King rallied 9 percent after the pub operator said that it saw annual pretax profit largely in line with market estimates. (Reporting by Kit Rees Editing by Alison Williams)