StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks opened lower on Monday as political tensions between the US and China over the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic intensified, while the global death toll continued to mount.

At 0820, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 33.21 points, or 0.6%, at 5.729.85.

Auto dealer Pendragon reversed 3.1% to 7.93p, having revealed that it had held merger talks with rival Lookers, which gained 1.2% to 24.03p.

'While Pendragon believed that such an exploration would have proved beneficial, these early discussions have now ceased,' Pendragon said.

Follow auto dealer Inchcape lost 0.8% to 489.8p, even as it appointed former Fujitsu executive Duncan Tait as its chief executive.

Tait had been responsible for the Japanese IT services giant's American and European operations.

Online trading platform IG fell 0.6% to 744p after announcing it had appointed former bank executive Charlie Rozes as chief financial officer.

Rozes had previously been CFO of Barclays' UK retail and business bank. More recently he was finance director of Jardine Lloyd until its acquisition by Marsh & McLennan.

Science Group dropped 10% to 173p on announcing that it was unlikely to complete the manufacture of ventilators for the UK government, despite having already started making the devices, owing to a lesser demand.

Chocolatier Hotel Chocolate firmed 1.8% to 336p, despite reporting the closure of retail stores had a material impact on trading during the crucial Easter period, though it added that online demand had softened the blow.

Food and beverage ingredients supplier Tate & Lyle added 2.9% to 674.8p on guiding for results for the financial year just completed to be slightly ahead of its previous guidance.

Pharmaceutical services company Open Orphan rallied 7.4% to 9.67p, even as it said chief executive Trevor Phillips was standing down.

Open Orphan also announced that it had signed a new contract with a US biotechnology company for the provision of a respiratory syncytial virus human challenge study.

Language services provider to the entertainment industry Zoo Digital was flat at 75p, after it said it had experienced a 'reassuring resumption in demand' following a softening of trading that occurred from March.

Simulation and training solutions provider SimiGon gained 6.2% to 6.9p, having won a contract extension from the US Air Force worth up to $2.1m.

Healthcare and industrial company Scapa slipped 1.3% to 108.6p after the heads of its two core divisions both resigned.

Preventative healthcare programme provider Premier Veterinary fell 6.0% to 31.5p, even as it guided for a narrower first-half loss amid a rise in revenue.

Premier Veterinary also saw the rate of sales growth slow in April as the Covid-19 crisis weighed.

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