July 26, 2019 / 7:33 AM / 25 days ago

Vodafone helps FTSE 100 gain; Sports Direct slips as results go AWOL

(Reuters) - Britain’s FTSE 100 surged on Friday led by Vodafone, which enjoyed its best day in more than 16 years on plans to create a separate European tower company, while mid-cap Sports Direct fell after thrice delaying its annual results.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work at their desks whilst screens show market data at CMC Markets in London, Britain, January 16, 2019. REUTERS/John Sibley

The main index .FTSE added 0.8% as weakness prevailed in sterling, helping the exporter-heavy FTSE 100 outperform the broader European market, which lagged after the European Central Bank did not cut interest rates.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 .FTMC rose 0.2%, up for the sixth straight session.

Vodafone (VOD.L) surged 10.6% to its highest level since March after laying out plans to separate its mobile mast infrastructure in 10 European markets into a new organisation that it could potentially list.

“Suffice to say the hope, reflected in the stock price leap, is that the Tower surprise could pull Vodafone’s above-industry-average leverage sharply lower,” Cityindex analyst Ken Odeluga said.

A strategy to shift away from traditional textbooks to digital began paying off for Pearson (PSON.L), the world’s biggest education company, as it climbed 5.9% after robust first-half trading.

Buoyed by hopes of more stimulus from central banks globally and as Brexit woes hit sterling, the exporter-heavy FTSE 100 is on course for its second consecutive month of gains, after a mild slump in May due to U.S.-China trade jitters.

While the ECB played down the possibility of a near-term rate cut, investors still hope the U.S. Federal Reserve will ease policy next week, despite a better-than-expected U.S. gross domestic product report.

Investors also bet that new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would implement stimulus measures and cut taxes to boost spending, which guided housebuilders .FTNMX3720 to their highest level since April.

The only major blemish on the FTSE 100 was a 4.1% drop in Anglo American (AAL.L) after its biggest shareholder Anil Agarwal said he was divesting all of his near 20% stake, and as copper prices fell after the ECB dampened rate cut hopes.

Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct (SPD.L) gave up 3.9% as it issued three statements saying it was still finalising its already delayed full-year results.

“A delay on top of a delay does not look good. Investors will take it as a bad sign although we’re not sure if it’s just a technical glitch or something more serious,” Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson said.

Among smaller stocks, baby products retailer Mothercare (MTC.L) slumped 13.9%, after it said an uncertain and volatile UK market would stall growth in its annual underlying pretax profit.

Reporting by Muvija M and Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; Editing by Alison Williams, Shounak Dasgupta and Andrew Cawthorne

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