May 4, 2018 / 8:56 AM / a year ago

IAG, Pearson lead FTSE rebound, overcoming HSBC profit hit

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s leading stock index was lifted by strong results from British Airways owner IAG, while HSBC joined French banks in reporting weaker profit which hit its shares.

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

A weak pound, which gives an accounting boost to companies whose earnings are in dollars, also helped Britain's FTSE 100 .FTSE to close up 0.86 percent on the day.

The index has risen sharply in recent weeks, though it is still underperforming European peers. It is up about 10 percent since hitting 15-month lows at the end of March, and marked its sixth straight week of gains.

IAG (ICAG.L) was up 5.8 percent and near a four-month high after a 75 percent jump in quarterly profit.

However, it gave no update on potential takeover of low-cost competitor Norwegian Air (NWC.OL), whose shares fell about 10 percent.

IAG said in an investor presentation that it had had contact with the Norwegian board regarding a possible offer, without reaching an agreement.

Rival airline easyJet (EZJ.L) also rose 1.7 percent, among the top FTSE 100 gainers, with Wizz Air (WIZZ.L) up 3.3 percent on the mid-cap index .FTMC.

HSBC (HSBA.L) was the standout FTSE laggard, falling about 1 percent after investors were disappointed by an unexpected 4 percent drop in first-quarter pre-tax profit, which overshadowed a share buyback by the bank.

“The share buyback of $2 billion is earlier, but also lower than expected,” said Charlie Huggins, manager of an income fund at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“An improvement in returns well beyond our own and consensus expectations is required to justify the current share price,” said Shore Capital analysts.

Shares in education publishing company Pearson (PSON.L) rose 7.6 percent after the firm said it was on track to return to profit growth this year.

The stock rose to its highest since September 2016 on the latest sign the company’s turnaround was on track.

“While the full year guidance has been reiterated, we highlight that Q1 is not representative for Pearson and the group’s profits are largely weighted towards the second half,” said Liberum analysts, who have a “sell” rating on it.

Oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell cemented the FTSE’s gains as oil prices held near recent highs on tight supplies and tensions over possible new U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Dixons Carphone (DC.L) shares jumped 5 percent to the top of the FTSE 250 .FTMC after RBC analysts increased their estimates and price target.

“We think electricals trends are robust helped by strong sales of TVs and connected home devices, while the mobile sector remains tough but is no worse,” they wrote in a note.

Reporting by Helen Reid, additional reporting by Julien Ponthus; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Alexander Smith

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