AstraZeneca, Micro Focus lift Britain's premier index to 4-month highs in last session
Britain's main index on Thursday held onto a more than four-month high hit in the last session, aided by earnings-driven gains in drugmaker AstraZeneca and software firm Micro Focus and boosted by forecast-beating trade data from China. The FTSE 100 rose 0.4 per cent by 0846 GMT, while the FTSE 250 was down 0.1 per cent as medical device maker ConvaTec tanked after "disappointing results".
AstraZeneca rose 3.8 per cent on track for its best day since early November after its fourth-quarter product sales beat expectations and it forecast sales growth for 2019. Micro Focus jumped 11.4 per cent, the biggest blue-chip gainer after its annual Pro-forma revenue fell less-than-expected.
British Prime Minister Theresa May returns to parliament on Thursday to seek renewed backing for her plan to renegotiate her Brexit deal with Brussels, just weeks before the March 29 leave date and amid warnings over the risk of a disorderly exit. Investors were also digesting data showing China's exports unexpectedly grew while imports fell much less than expected in January. A report that U.S. President Donald Trump was considering an extension of the March 1 deadline for higher tariffs on Chinese imports also helped the mood.
Underperforming the main bourse was Coca Cola HBC which slipped 7 per cent after it warned economic growth would slow in many of its markets this year. Shares were on track for their worst day in more than three-and-a-half years. The mid-caps saw steep, news-related moves as well.
Medical device maker ConvaTec tanked nearly 20 per cent as it reported a lower annual operating profit. It launched a turnaround programme to boost revenue and cut costs in response to the bleak results. Frankie & Benny's owner Restaurant Group skidded 11 per cent to an all-time low after the company said its chief executive officer was stepping down due to "extenuating personal circumstances".
But Moneysupermarket.com added 6.2 per cent after it said it was confident of delivering market expectations for the year and also announced a chairman transition.
(With inputs from agencies.)