* FTSE 100 flat at close
* CCH up after Coca Cola buys AB InBev Africa bottling stake
* Ashtead gains following target price increase
* QinetiQ rises after deal for Meggitt defence unit
(Recasts, adds quote and detail, updates prices at close)
By Kit Rees and Alistair Smout
LONDON, Dec 21 Britain's top share index ended
little changed on Wednesday after reaching a two-month high,
though a rise in Ashtead Group and bottler Coca-Cola
Hellenic provided support.
The FTSE 100 was flat at 7,041.42 points at its close, with
trading volume low.
The index had touched a fresh two month high in early deals,
having posted its highest close since October 11 in the previous
Coca-Cola Hellenic (CCH) was up 1.3 percent after
Coca-Cola bought a majority stake in an African bottling
firm from AB InBev for $3.15 billion.
Coca-Cola said it planned to hold all operations temporarily
until they can be refranchised to other partners. Its existing
bottling partners include Coca-Cola European Partners and
Analysts said that CCH was well positioned to secure the
bottling rights due to its experience in Africa, and that the
deal looked like good value, coming in under expectations of $4
billion or more.
Shares in Ashtead climbed 1.3 percent after Credit
Suisse raised its target price for the stock, citing a boost for
the stock from its U.S. exposure.
"We raise our FY18E and FY19E estimates ... reflecting a
stronger demand outlook in the wake of the U.S. presidential
election, along with some assumed benefit of a falling effective
tax rate on the group's dominant US activities," analysts at
Credit Suisse said in a note.
Oil & gas stocks retreated 0.1 percent, with
Royal Dutch Shell down 0.4 percent after oil prices
edged lower on a surprise build in U.S. crude inventories.
Falls on the FTSE 100 were broad-based, with fund firm
Hargreaves Lansdown down 3 percent, health care stock
Hikma down 1.4 percent and Merlin Entertainments
dropping 1.2 percent.
Capita fell after Goldman Sachs cut its target price
on the stock to 595p from 771p, but recovered some of its losses
to end 0.7 percent lower.
The investment bank said it expected free cash flow to
decline around by about 3 percent each year for the next two
years following Capita's recent trading update. Earlier in the
month the company gave its second profit warning in three
"In general, we see risks that the company's restructuring
plan will not address the major concerns we have about bidding
process and increasing cyclicality of the business model,"
analysts at Goldman Sachs said in a note, reiterating a
"neutral" rating on the stock.
Among mid-caps, QinetiQ was up 4.4 percent after it
agreed to buy Meggitt's defence business. Liberum said the deal
would enhance QinetiQ's position in global test and aviation
(Reporting by Alistair Smout and Kit Rees; Editing by Alison