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* FTSE 100 index finishes up 0.1 pct
* Weak sterling supports index
* Motor insurers hit by rate change
By Helen Reid
LONDON, Feb 27 Britain's top share index closed
slightly higher on Monday, helped by earnings updates and weak
sterling, although motor insurers were hit by a regulatory
change that could lead to higher payouts.
The broader market was helped by sterling, which fell after
talk of another possible Scottish independence vote added to
fears about Britain's future as it prepares to leave the
A weaker pound often helps the blue-chip FTSE 100,
because the index is dominated by globally focused firms. The
benchmark index finished 0.1 percent higher and was set to end
the month up more than 2 percent, after retreating last month.
Companies such as Unilever, Bunzl and Convatec were among
the top gainers.
Business supplies firm Bunzl posted
better-than-expected results, boosting it to the top of the
FTSE, up 3.4 percent. Convatec, the
medical supplies company, was up 1 percent.
Unilever was up 1.5 percent. Near Friday's close
Chief Financial Officer Graeme Pitkethly said the Kraft Heinz
bid had been a "trigger moment" for Unilever to focus more on
short-term value creation.
However, motor insurers came under pressure, with shares in
Admiral and Direct Line falling 2.5 percent and
7.2 percent respectively.
They were hit by the government's reduction of a rate which
discounts certain large motor claims. The Ministry of Justice
cut the discount rate to minus 0.75 percent from 2.5 percent
"We expect today's change to lead to premium price
increases, in addition to those required to pass on ongoing
non-bodily injury claims inflation," UBS analysts said in a
Direct Line said it expected profit before tax to fall by
215 million to 230 million pounds. Consultancy PwC
said the rate change would add 50 to 75 pounds to the average
motor insurance policy.
London Stock Exchange also fell after its plans to
merge with Deutsche Boerse faltered. LSE said it believed the
European Commission is unlikely to clear the merger with its
German peer. LSE shares finished 3.2 percent lower.
RBS was down 1.1 percent, maintaining Friday's move
down after the bank's results disappointed. Retailer ABF
, which owns discount fashion brand Primark, fell 0.9
percent after its results.
"Primark's subdued like-for-like and upcoming margin
headwinds are unlikely to prove conducive to continued near-term
valuation rebuild," said Jefferies analysts, who have a 'hold'
rating on the stock.
(Additional reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Larry King)