StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks opened lower on Friday after the coronavirus continued to spread outside China, particularly in South Korea, where more than 200 cases had been confirmed.

At 0821, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 33.3 points, or 0.5%, at 7.403.34.

Publishing and education group Pearson fell 1.1% to 577.8p as restructuring costs and asset sales related to its move towards offering digital services more than halved its annual profit.

Property developer and investor Hammerson gained 3.1% to 232.7p, having offloaded UK retail assets for £455m to trim its debt pile.

The share-price improvement came despite the assets being sold 22% below their combined book value.

Gulf-region hospitals group NMC Health dropped 0.9% to 849.6p after it received notifications from some of its major shareholders about their investments in the company.

NMC Health, however, said it was continuing to urgently seek more clarification about the size of their shareholdings.

Marine contractor James Fisher and Sons advanced 2.9% to £19.40 as it agreed a £35m four-year contract extension to supply its submarine escape and rescue system to the Royal Australian Navy.

Generic pharmaceuticals company Halma added 0.3% to £22.23 following news that it had acquired Utah-based oxygen analysis and delivery product manufacturer Maxtec for $20m.

Industrial engineering company The 600 Group sank 21% to 11p on warning that its annual performance would be worse than its previously-downgraded expectations.

The company blamed a cocktail of factors, including a General Motors strike in the US, grounding of Boeing's 737 MAX aircraft and the coronavirus outbreak in China.

Building insulation provider Kingspan firmed 2.1% to 64.8c after it reported a rise in annual profit on higher sales.

Kingspan, however, also said that 2020 had gotten off to a slow start, citing uncertain economic outlooks in its end markets.

Solar power investor US Solar Fund fell 0.3% to 1 US cent after it estimated it would take 'some months' for a recovery processes related to a $6.9m fraud against the company to be completed.

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