(ADVISORY- Follow European and UK stock markets in real time on
the Reuters Live Markets blog on Eikon, see cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=livemarkets)
* FTSE 100 closes 0.15 pct lower
* Aggreko biggest mid-cap faller after earnings miss
* Intertek top of FTSE on results surprise
* Standard Life falls back after merger excitement
* Ashtead drops on negative currency impact
* Weak pound supports shares
By Helen Reid
LONDON, March 7 Britain's top equity index
steadied at the close on Tuesday, with negative share moves seen
by a string of firms following their poor earnings updates
offsetting gains in some firms that advanced on the back of a
The blue-chip FTSE 100 closed 0.15 percent lower
after trading in a narrow band throughout the session.
Gambling firm Paddy Power Betfair was the top FTSE
faller, down 5.9 percent after it posted 2016 earnings up 35
percent and predicted 2017 would be in line with expectations.
Analysts said the shares were fully valued.
"A business case founded on regulated earnings,
complementary brands, marketing firepower etc. has its
attractions," Liberum analysts said.
"However, on more than 20 times price-to-earnings, the
valuation is 'rich' and operational challenges in gaming are
Ashtead was down 2 percent after the company
announced its results and said that sterling fluctuations may
continue to impact its performance.
Shares in the industrial equipment maker had gained 35
percent since the U.S. election on hopes of an infrastructure
Fund manager Standard Life was also among the top
fallers, down 3.8 percent, snapping a five-day winning streak
after excitement over its plans to merge with Aberdeen Asset
Insurer Direct Line was down 2.9 percent after its
results were slightly dented by the government's decision last
week to cut the discount rate with which personal injury claims
are calculated. The company said the change should have little
material impact on 2017 profits.
Temporary power provider Aggreko slumped 12.9
percent, the top mid-cap faller, after it said it expected lower
profit this year and posted a 3 percent decline in full-year
revenue due to low oil prices and adverse currency impact.
The company, whose largest utility business is in Argentina,
said the impact of pricing discount to its contracts there would
outweigh growth across the group.
"The update on Argentina is relatively disappointing,"
Morgan Stanley analysts said.
A lack of conviction on the stock could have accentuated the
market reaction. Aggreko was one of the most-shorted stocks
posting earnings this week, with 9 percent of its shares
outstanding on loan, according to Markit data.
Product testing firm Intertek hit a five-month
high, up 4.8 percent at the top of the blue-chip index, after
its results beat on margins.
"The good surprise on the EBITA margin and on the cash flow
have not been priced in," UBS analysts said.
Sterling fell to a seven-week low against the dollar
ahead of a second vote in Britain's upper house of parliament on
legislation giving Prime Minister Theresa May the right to start
formal Brexit talks.
A weaker pound boosts performance in the FTSE 100, which has
a majority of foreign currency earning companies.
Foreign exchange is having the greatest influence on UK
stocks in 20 years, Morgan Stanley found. The bank sees a
brighter outlook for sterling, spurring it to upgrade its view
on British mid-cap companies.
(Additional reporting by Atul Prakash,; Editing by Susan Thomas
and Ed Osmond)