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4 months ago
Britain's FTSE bounces on BT and oil stocks
March 10, 2017 / 10:43 AM / 4 months ago

Britain's FTSE bounces on BT and oil stocks

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* FTSE 100 up 0.4 pct

* Investors reward BT decision to separate Openreach unit

* Oil stocks lead gains on crude price bounce

* Esure, JRP rise on strong results

* U.S. jobs data in focus

By Helen Reid

LONDON, March 10 (Reuters) - British shares gained on Friday, led by BT as investors cheered the resolution of a long-running regulatory battle over its broadband unit.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 was up 0.4 percent by 1000 GMT, bouncing back from Thursday's losses, as investors awaited U.S. non-farm payrolls data due later in the day, which were expected to be strong.

Rising energy stocks also supported the FTSE, but Britain's biggest telecoms company BT was the top blue-chip gainer, up 4.2 percent after it announced it would legally separate its Openreach broadband unit. That ends two years of tension with regulator Ofcom over transparency in the company.

"We see this as positive for investor sentiment on BT in terms of removing a notable overhang, an absence of negative surprises, and avoiding a prolonged period of uncertainty had Ofcom taken its case to the European Commission," said analysts at UBS, who have a 'neutral' rating on the stock.

Shares in BT, however, were still 10 percent off their level prior to the company admitting to bad accounting in its Italian division in late January.

Oil & gas stocks were the top sectoral gainers. Oil trader Glencore and producer Royal Dutch Shell were among top FTSE gainers, as oil prices came off three-month lows hit on Thursday.

Gold producers Randgold Resources and Fresnillo were the top FTSE fallers as gold fell below the key $1,200 level ahead of the U.S. jobs data.

Insurer Esure was up 7.7 percent, the top mid-cap gainer, and hit a record high after it reported an 18 percent jump in full-year profit on strong premiums.

Peer JRP was a top gainer, up 6.3 percent after it reported a sharp jump in full-year operating profit, and increased its dividend. Its shares hit their highest level since January 2016.

Specialist lender Aldermore was the top mid-cap faller, down 6.8 percent after it said it raised 113.7 million pounds through a share placing.

Britain's largest listed property developer, Segro, fell 4.1 percent after announcing a rights issue to buy the remaining stake in the Airport Property Partnership joint venture.

"A £556m 1 for 5 rights issue at 345p, representing a 25 percent discount to the 485p theoretical ex-rights price, nevertheless overfunds this purchase and seems opportunistic," said Liberum analysts.

Strong manufacturing data helped support gains. British factory output had its strongest growth in nearly seven years in late 2016 and early 2017, data showed, suggesting the manufacturing sector got a boost from sterling's fall. (Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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