February 28, 2017 / 10:20 AM / in 9 months

Britain's FTSE steady as miners outweigh GKN, Babcock gains

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* FTSE 100 flat

* Miners weigh as metals prices slip

* GKN leads FTSE after results

* Defence companies lead

* Mid-caps Meggitt, IWG top STOXX gainers

* Go-Ahead Group slumps on GTR rail concerns

By Helen Reid

LONDON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Britain’s main share index edged up on Tuesday, despite being weighed by mining stocks and wealth manager St James Place.

The FTSE was 0.1 percent higher, as gains by GKN and Pearson outweighed losses from basic resources stocks.

Engineering group GKN was top of the FTSE after it reported a 12 percent rise in profit for 2016, and sales up 22 percent, ahead of forecasts.

Education services giant Pearson was a top gainer, up 3.2 percent. The company posted results on Friday, promising to further cut costs.

“We see this as a false hope,” said Liberum analysts, who rate the stock a ‘sell’. “The shares are not factoring in the structural risks from what seems like a similar story to what happened in other challenged sectors such as newspapers.”

Babcock Intl, the engineering support and outsourcing company whose biggest client is Britain’s Ministry of Defence, was a top gainer after saying it remained on track to achieve its full-year targets, and had a 30.8 billion pound pipeline.

Wealth manager St James Place was a top faller, after it posted higher costs weighing on cash earnings, and said Chief Executive David Bellamy would step down at the end of the year, to be replaced by current Chief Financial Officer Andrew Croft.

“We view the internal hand over as being the best possible result for SJP,” said Panmure Gordon analyst Barrie Cornes in a note.

Miners were top fallers, tracking the pan-European basic resources index lower. Randgold Resources, Fresnillo, BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Rio Tinto were all down 1.2 to 2.9 percent.

Metals prices had slipped as investors took profit ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech on Tuesday.

Fresnillo reported a six-fold increase in profit for 2016 on higher commodities prices and a weak Mexican peso.

“The move to a net cash position prompted a larger than expected final dividend of USc21.5/share,” said UBS analysts. “In our view FRES operational performance is improving and we like its low cost core assets and industry leading growth profile.”

Retailers Marks & Spencer’s and Next were among top gainers, up 1.8 percent. Jefferies analysts upgraded M&S from ‘underperform’ to ‘buy’, saying it has closed the gap with Next for quality of website content.

British mid-caps bookended the pan-European index as well, with aerospace engineer Meggitt top gainer and Moneysupermarket the top faller.

Defence equipment company Meggitt, a peer of GKN, was up 10.7 percent and headed for its best daily gains in a year after it posted a 13 percent rise in profit for 2016.

Transport operator Go-Ahead Group was the top faller on the mid-cap index, down 13.8 percent and set for its worst day in 8 1/2 months after the company cut its full-year expectations due to its GTR rail franchise, which had been beset by strikes.

“We expect consensus estimates to come under pressure, and the uncertainty surrounding GTR is likely to also weigh on the shares,” said Liberum analysts. (Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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