- The FTSE 100 was down 0.8% by midday on Thursday at 7,108.86 on fears the Omicron variant might sink the global economy.

The top faller on the index was Royal Mail. It fell 5.6% as it traded without the rights to its upcoming dividend. Cyber security firm Darktrace was down 4.8% as its demotion from the FTSE 100 was confirmed as part of the latest reshuffle.

Oil major Royal Dutch Shell said it would commence up to $1.5 billion of share buybacks on Thursday as part of a plan to return $7 billion to shareholders from proceeds related to the sale of its permian business in the United States. Its shares were up 0.83% to £16.20.

Support services firm Serco gained 1% to 135.2p as investors responded to in--line guidance for 2021 and 2022 and announced medium-term targets for revenue, profit and dividends.

Mining giant BHP was flat at £20.72 after confirming it had made a final decision to proceed with its plan to unify its corporate structure under its Australian parent company BHP Group Ltd, with the merger expected to be completed by the end of January 2022.

Auction Technology slipped 0.2% to £13.20 after reporting wider annual losses as higher costs offset a surge in revenue.

Budget carrier Wizz Air said its passenger numbers jumped in November as the travel sector continued to recover. Its shares rose 2.3% to £43.18.

Telecommunications and mobile money services company Airtel Africa said it had completed the previously announced deal for a minority shareholding buyback of its subsidiary Airtel Networks. Its shares were flat down 0.5% to 125.5p.

Services business JTC said it had completed a deal to buy fund services business Ballybunion Capital. Its shares fell 0.9% to 859p.

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