Saad Group, the Saudi Arabian investment company, has sold half its stake in Berkeley, sending shares in the UK house builder plunging to their lowest level since last autumn.

Saad was seen as a long-term core investor and partner for Berkeley, and formerly held just under 38m shares, equivalent to 29 per cent of the total equity.

Shares in Berkeley closed at 782p, a drop of 43p, having fallen as low as 725p in early trading.

Citigroup placed 16.1m shares at 701p, but Berkeley could not confirm rumours that Credit Suisse was trying to place a further 4.4m shares at 715p.

Analysts said the sale was likely to have been prompted by a need to raise cash at Saad, which last week said that it was carrying out a debt restructuring because of a 'short-term liquidity squeeze' relating to some of its banking assets in Bahrain.

Financial Times, The Times