February 14, 2019 / 9:07 AM / 4 months ago

FTSE 100 squeezes out gains; ConvaTec drags midcaps

(Reuters) - Britain’s main stock index clung on to last session’s advance, aided by earnings-driven gains in AstraZeneca and Micro Focus, while medical device maker ConvaTec single-handedly contributed to nearly one-third of the midcap index’s dip.

FILE PHOTO: People walk past the London Stock Exchange Group offices in the City of London, Britain, December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The FTSE 100 added 0.1 percent, outperforming its U.S. and European peers, though the FTSE 250 was down 0.4 percent as ConvaTec tanked after reporting what its CEO called “disappointing results”.

Investors also kept an eye on the ongoing parliamentary turmoil over Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan.

“The fact that there will now be another meaningful vote on Feb. 27 has taken the pressure off today’s vote ... but Theresa May’s ‘my deal or no deal’ doesn’t look like it will make it into next month,” London Capital Group analyst Jasper Lawler said.

Blue chips got their biggest boost from drugmaker AstraZeneca, which surged 7.5 percent - its biggest intra-day gain in nearly two years - after its fourth-quarter sales beat expectations and it forecast sales growth for 2019. GlaxoSmithKline and Hikma also rose.

Software company Micro Focus led the blue chips, as its shares jumped 12.3 percent on its best day in nearly four and a half years after it reported annual pro-forma revenue fell less than expected.

Investors were also digesting data showing China’s exports unexpectedly increased while imports fell less than expected in January. A report that U.S. President Donald Trump might extend a March 1 deadline for imposing higher tariffs on Chinese goods also helped the mood.

But indexes in Wall Street and Europe fell as weak U.S. retail data prompted concerns about retailer earnings.

Underperforming London’s main bourse was Coca Cola HBC, which slipped 8.6 percent to its worst-ever day after it warned economic growth would slow in many of its markets this year.

The mid-caps also saw steep, news-related moves.

ConvaTec slumped to a record low, losing nearly one-fifth in market value after reporting lower annual operating profit.

Frankie & Benny’s owner Restaurant Group skidded 11 percent to its lowest level in nine and a half years on news its chief executive officer will step down due to “extenuating personal circumstances”.

TBC Bank, Georgia’s largest retail bank, gave up nearly 7 percent after it said Georgia’s central bank had asked its chairman and vice-chairman to step down as board members of its unit relating to an ongoing investigation.

Ashmore’s shares dropped 4 percent as the chief executive and majority owner of the emerging-market-focused fund manager revealed plans to sell down his stake, overshadowing a rise in assets under management.

Outperforming the midcaps was Lloyd’s of London insurer Lancashire that jumped 7.1 percent after it swung to a profit in 2018 from a loss a year earlier, helped by a rise in gross written premiums.

Moneysupermarket.com also rose 6.6 percent after it said it was confident of delivering market expectations for the year and also announced a chairman transition.

Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi and Muvija M in Bengaluru; editing by Larry King and Andrew Heavens

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