- UK stocks had a directionless start on Wednesday after a UK-election-inspired rally ran out of puff and no-deal Brexit fears, recently revived by Boris Johnson, kept pressure on the pound.

At 0838, the benchmark FTSE 100 index had nudged up 1.12 points to 7.526.40.

Education group Pearson gained 3.0% to 663p on news that it had agreed to sell its remaining 25% stake in book publisher Penguin Random House to partner Bertelsmann for around $675m (£530m).

Proceeds would fund a £350m share buyback in early 2020, with the rest to be used for general corporate purposes.

Gulf country focused healthcare group NMC Health gained 5.5% to £18.43, recovering some of Tuesday's steep losses triggered by a critical report issued by US research firm and short-selling specialist Muddy Waters.

In its rebuttal, NMC claimed the report appeared to be 'unfounded, baseless and misleading' while rejecting concerns about the health of its balance sheet.

Recruitment and training group Staffline plunged 32% to 72.5p as it warned on profits for the current year and said it had identified accounting errors in its previous year's results.

The latest snafu at Staffline, which had already experienced accounting issues, has been accompanied by the immediate departure of chief financial officer Mike Watts.

Plumbing and heating products group Ferguson added 0.2% to £69.82, despite it announcing that Mark Higson, the head of its soon-to-be-separated Wolseley UK unit, would leave to pursue an opportunity outside of the company.

London West End focused property company Shaftesbury dropped 1.6% to 915p even as it announced that it had agreed to let space at a refurbishment scheme in Carnaby to US fitness brand Equinox.

Gold miner Centamin fell 0.3% to 116.9p as it insisted that potential acquirer Endeavour would need to provide it with more information for it to consider granting the latter more time to table a takeover bid.

Investment platform provider IntegraFin shed 2.4% to 445p on announcing the appointment of chief executive Alex Scott.

IntegraFin also reported that annual profit rose by more than a fifth as funds under direction grew despite a downtick in fund inflows.

In-game advertising group Bidstack tumbled 32% to 8.12p as it warned that it would not meet its revenue guidance, amid delays from commitments previously anticipated to be recognised in the year.

Scotland-focused house builder Springfield Properties rallied 8.5% to 138.8p on announcing that a 3,042-home village development at Durieshill, Stirling, has been granted conditional planning consent.

Auto dealer Marshall Motor reversed 3.9% to 148p as it acquired a loss-making portfolio of Volkswagen and Skoda passenger and commercial vehicle franchises from Jardine Motor for up to £22.3m.

Hostel company Safestay fell 4.4% to 32.03p, having acquired three hostels, in Warsaw, Prague and Bratislava, from Dreamgroup Management for a combined €3.7m.

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