StockMarketWire.com - UK stocks edged lower in early trading on Friday after the housing construction sector was hit by news of a competition regulator probe into the selling of leasehold homes.

At 0825, the benchmark FTSE 100 index was down 2.65 points at 5,848.21.

Britain's Competition and Markets Authorities said it had launched enforcement action against four house builders: Barratt Developments, Countryside Properties, Persimmon and Taylor Wimpey.

The regulator said it had 'uncovered troubling evidence' of potentially unfair terms concerning ground rents in leasehold contracts and potential mis-selling.

It also said leasehold homeowners may have been unfairly treated, and that buyers may have been misled by developers.

Barratt fell 3.2% to 522p, Countryside shed 1.3% to 321.27p, Taylor Wimpey reversed 1.2% to 119.39p and Persimmon dropped 2.2% to £25.82.

Another big house builder, Berkeley, fell 1.0% to £46.04, even though it's not involved in the investigation.

Berkley also separately announced on Friday that 'resilient' trading supported its existing guidance of £500m pre-tax profit for its financial year ended 30 April.

Berkley said it now expected a more even split between the first and second halves of the year, amid assistance from the government's temporary removal of stamp duty and its Help-to-Buy support subsidy.

Elsewhere, advertising company WPP added 0.3% to 628.4p, having acquired French customer experience consultancy Velvet Consulting, for an undisclosed sum.

Velvet Consulting had offices in Paris and Toulouse, employed 200 people and had clients including L'Oreal, Sephora and Schneider Electric.

British Gas owner Centrica gained 0.3% to 46.61p as it agreed to acquire the energy supply customers of Robin Hood Energy for an undisclosed sum.

Robin Hood Energy currently served around 112,000 residential customers, and 2,600 business customers across 10,000 sites.

Engineering services group Renew jumped 9.7% to 465.64p, having guided for a full-year profit 'materially ahead' of current market expectations.

Renew's adjusted operating profit for the year through September was expected to be between £39m and £40m.

Equities investor Witan Investment Trust eased back 0.1% to 185p after it appointed WCM Investment Management and Jennison Associates as its new global growth managers.

Both managers were based in the US and specialised in faster growing companies.

Paris-based diagnostics group Novacyt gained 2.6% to 3.38p as it released an additional CE-Mark approved test for Covid-19.

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) two-gene target test provided an additional option to the company's previously released single-gene test.

Flooring retailer Topps Tiles added 0.4% to 50p on news that it had appointed Stephen Hopson as its new chief financial officer.

Hopson was joining from Molson Coors Beverage Company, where he was director of central finance, Western Europe. He was previously director of finance at BSS and had held other senior finance roles at Travis Perkins and Mitchells & Butlers. At 8:39am:

[LON:BDEV] Barratt Developments PLC share price was -6.8p at 532.6p

[LON:BKG] Berkeley Group Holdings The PLC share price was +8.5p at 4656.5p

[LON:PSN] Persimmon PLC share price was -35.5p at 2605.5p

[LON:RNWH] Renew Holdings PLC share price was +33.5p at 458p

[LON:TW.] Taylor Wimpey PLC share price was -0.27p at 120.58p



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