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CRH surge leads Britain's FTSE to modest gains
February 2, 2015 / 3:11 PM / 3 years ago

CRH surge leads Britain's FTSE to modest gains

* Blue-chip FTSE 100 index up 0.2 percent

* CRH gains on deal to buy assets from rivals

* Budget airlines fall after Ryanair update (Adds detail, updates prices)

By Atul Prakash and Alistair Smout

LONDON, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Britain’s top share index edged higher on Monday, with a surge in Irish building supplies groups CRH partially offset by a drop in airlines after Ryanair cautioned on its profit outlook.

Shares in CRH, one of the top gainers in the FTSE 100 index , rose 4.3 percent after the company said it had agreed to pay 6.5 billion euros ($7.4 billion) for assets that Lafarge and Holcim need to sell to secure regulatory approval for their planned merger.

CRH, the leading producer of asphalt for road building in the United States, said the deal would expand its global reach and make it the largest building supplier in central and eastern Europe.

“CRH has a history of acquisition and successfully integrating businesses into its operations. This deal will be large, adding 26 percent to our expected sales figure for 2014,” said Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Ian Osburn.

The benchmark FTSE 100 index was up 11.48 points, or 0.2 percent at 6,760.88 points by 1451 GMT after closing 0.9 percent lower on Friday.

Budget airlines came under pressure after Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline by passenger numbers, cautioned that profit growth will be modest next year as low oil prices help rivals to step up competition.

Ryanair fell 6.6 percent despite again raising its profit forecast. It said it would benefit only slightly from lower jet fuel costs this year as it has hedged 90 percent of its fuel needs at $92 per barrel up until March 2016.

While Ryanair is not a FTSE 100 member, airlines easyJet and IAG were the top fallers on the index, losing 5.9 percent and 2.8 percent respectively.

“Ryanair has always had particular difficulty hedging its oil. It’s very difficult to hedge when you’re not sure where the bottom is, but I think other airlines are in the same boat,” said Brenda Kelly, chief market strategist at IG.

Oil price volatility impacted energy stocks again on Monday, with the British sector up 3.4 percent, following an 8 percent jump in oil prices on Friday on a record weekly drop in U.S. oil drilling. They reversed an early fall to gain on Monday.

Tullow Oil surged 9.7 percent, set for its biggest rise since 2011 to become the top FTSE 100 gainer, but remains down more than 50 percent since last June.

“Crude oil prices are still much higher than their levels at the time of stock market closing in London on Friday and that’s providing some support to energy stocks,” said John Smith, senior fund manager at Brown Shipley.

“However, the problems in the oil sector will stay for quite some time and we don’t see a stabilisation in oil prices anytime soon. The rally that we are seeing in oil stocks today is an opportunity to reduce some exposure to the sector.” (Editing by Gareth Jones)

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