The FTSE 250 continued to drop on Thursday, with the market down 52.17 points (0.30%) to 17,087.68 by mid-afternoon.
Political events in South Arica caused Investec to plummet throughout the day. President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday evening fired the country's finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene - a decision that weighed on financial assets from the country. Nene was replaced by David van Rooyen, whom some reports described a little-known backbencher with no previous experience in finance.
One report linked Nene's defenestration to his ministry's opposition to the president's plans for an approximately $100bn deal to purchase eight nuclear reactors from the Russian Federation and question marks surrounding deals at state-owned airline SAA. The unexpected decision sent Investec shares
plummeting as well as the South African rand sharply dropping versus the US dollar.
Different issues in a different part of the continent created problems for PZ Cussons. The personal care and beauty products maker maintained a flat performance in the first six months of its financial year but warned that risks remained about its key market of Nigeria.
It confirmed profits were "broadly flat" compared to the same period last year as a strong performance in the UK balanced a Nigerian market where the oil price
slump has hit consumer disposable incomes. While Nigerian demand for personal and home care remained solid, and are expected to continue so, the lack of disposable income hit the local Haier Thermocool electricals business, which makes refrigerators, freezers and washing machines. If there is no improvement in the Nigerian economy, the electricals performance in the seasonally important second half is expected to be "significantly lower".
Online grocer Ocado reported double-digit sales growth in a "challenging and competitive" grocery retail environment. For the 16 weeks to 29 November, group sales grew 15% to £381.6m, while gross retail sales were 13% higher at £351.8m. The group sales figures represented a slowdown from last year but were still a touch above analysts' forecasts. Gross sales for the full year jumped 17.3% to £1.2bn.
On the other side of the ledger, Micro Focus International helped balance things out after it delivered better-than-expected interim sales growth and operating cost figures. However analysts at Investec said the key attraction of the shares lay in its ability to return high volumes of cash in the medium-term. Sales at the server software provider declined by 2%, which was ahead of guidance for a drop of between 2% and 4%, while operating costs fell from $382.5m to $340.6m, the broker explained. Analyst Julian Yates said he saw potential for a 5% upgrade to the company's EBITDA after the strong performance it put in over the first six month of the year.
John Wood Group grew after it revealed it expects to hit all of its targets for the full-year 2015, including a double-digit increase to its dividend. In a pre-close trading update, the oil field services company said full-year earnings before interest, taxes and amortisation would be in-line with its own guidance for around $465m (£308m).
FTSE 250 - Risers
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 1,507.00p 13.22%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 570.00p 3.17%
AO World (AO.) 163.80p 2.70%
Spectris (SXS) 1,734.00p 2.60%
Telecom Plus (TEP) 1,097.00p 2.14%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 142.70p 1.93%
Rexam (REX) 594.00p 1.89%
BTG (BTG) 620.50p 1.47%
Bwin.party Digital Entertainment (BPTY) 113.30p 1.34%
Virgin Money Holdings (UK) (VM.) 401.30p 1.34%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Investec (INVP) 469.20p -11.22%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 339.10p -5.60%
PZ Cussons (PZC) 289.00p -5.49%
Brown (N.) Group (BWNG) 326.60p -5.06%
Jimmy Choo (CHOO) 103.10p -4.27%
Dignity (DTY) 2,309.00p -4.15%
Provident Financial (PFG) 3,355.00p -4.06%
Sophos Group (SOPH) 244.40p -3.93%
Acacia Mining (ACA) 181.40p -3.77%
Clarkson (CKN) 2,371.00p -3.66%