OUTSOURCING giant Capita has seen its shares plunge to a 15-year low after warning over profits and announcing an investor cash-call as part of a major overhaul.

New chief executive Jonathan Lewis, who took up the role on December 1, admitted the group had become "far too complex" and said "significant change" was needed to get Capita back on track.

Shares in the firm crashed more than 42 per cent to lows not seen since early February 2003, with calls from Labour and trade unions for urgent Government action to avoid "another Carillion".

However, the Government claimed the company is not in a "comparable position to Carillion", adding that it is monitoring the firm's financial health.

Capita said 2018 profits would now fall short of expectations, at between £270 million and £300m, as cost actions taken so far would not be enough to offset lost contracts and wider woes in the business.

Mr Lewis said an "immediate priority" was to strengthen the group's balance sheet, with plans to raise as much as £700m in a rights issue, as well as slashing costs and selling off unprofitable businesses.

Capita's woes emerged as the FTSE 100 fell to a 2018 low on Wednesday, weighed down by pharmaceutical shares as investors fretted over industry disruption after Amazon revealed plans to enter the healthcare business.

London's blue chip index ended the day down 0.7 per cent or 54.43 points at 7,533.55 points, marking its lowest level so far this year.

While world stock markets started to recover from a global sell-off fuelled by profit taking earlier this week, the FTSE 100 failed to follow suit.

Shire and Astrazeneca were two of the worst performers, down 99p at 3,327.5p, and 127.5p at 4,886.5p, respectively.

David Madden, a market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: "UK-listed healthcare stocks are in the red today, and this comes one day after Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon and JPMorgan revealed plans yesterday to strike up a joint venture, and enter the healthcare sector.

"Amazon alone are known for disrupting sectors they enter so stocks likes Astrazeneca and Shire are in the red today."

Housebuilders were knocked by comments from Housing Secretary Sajid Javid, who told The Times that there had been "some hoarding of land" by developers and that ministers would now play a "more active" role in tackling the problem.

"The move is seen as a way for Westminster to encourage housebuilders to speed up their rate of building houses in order to ramp up the supply of new houses," Mr Madden explained.

"Some construction companies have been criticised for sitting on land banks and developing the sites in their own time, all the while there is a housing shortage going on in some parts of the country," he added.

Those comments sent the likes of Persimmon down 69p at 2,502p, and Barratt Developments down 15.6p at 585.2p.

Across Europe the French Cac 40 ended the day up 0.15 per cent, while the German Dax edged lower by 0.06 per cent.

In currency markets, the pound rose 0.3 per cent against the US dollar to 1.419 and was about 0.1 per cent higher versus the euro to trade at 1.141.

Brent crude prices edged higher by 0.3 per cent at $68.25 per barrel, as investors processed fresh data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing a further rise in US oil inventories.

In UK stocks, Marks & Spencer shares dropped 3.8p to 301.3p as the retailer revealed plans to close 14 stores as part of a restructuring programme that will put 450 jobs at risk.

High street chains have been hammered by Brexit-fuelled inflation that has sent the cost of goods rocketing and consumer confidence plummeting, while also having to stomach hefty business rate increases.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Johnson Matthey up 152p at 3,460p, BAE Systems up 10.2p at 594p, Rolls-Royce Holdings up 12.6p at 872p, and Segro up 7.4p at 581.4p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Shire down 99p at 3,327.5p, Persimmon down 69p at 2,502p, Barratt Developments down 15.6p at 585.2p, and Astrazeneca down 127.5p at 4,886.5p.