January 17, 2019 / 10:03 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-British stocks shrug off politics as results from Sage, ABF drive big moves

* FTSE 100 down 0.5 pct, FTSE 250 down 0.3 pct

* ITV tumbles 7.7 pct after BAML downgrades broadcasters

* Sage nabs top spot, up 5.7 pct after strong subscription growth

* Primark owner ABF climbs after results (Updates prices, adds quotes, details, graphic)

By Helen Reid

LONDON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Investors in British stocks turned their focus from political to company developments on Thursday as results from software firm Sage, Primark owner ABF, and bookmaker GVC triggered big moves and weak house sales data dented shares in housebuilders.

The FTSE 100 slid 0.5 percent by 0940 GMT, extending Wednesday’s fall, while the mid-cap FTSE 250 fell 0.3 percent, in line with a slide in European stocks.

Financials were the biggest drag on the FTSE 100 as Europe’s banking sector sold off after weak results from Societe Generale, and investors received Prime Minister Theresa May’s win in a no-confidence vote with little fanfare.

May’s government won a vote of no confidence on Wednesday evening with 325 votes versus 306, leaving her to try to break the impasse over how to leave the European Union.

“The Brexit process is no clearer after the government’s victory,” wrote David Page, senior economist at AXA Investment Managers. “Delay of some format still looks the most likely outcome.”

Software provider Sage jumped 5.7 percent to top the FTSE 100 after it said it had made a strong start to its financial year thanks to software subscription growth of 27.7 percent.

Shares in Primark owner ABF climbed 5 percent after it stuck to its full-year earnings guidance, reporting revenue growth in the Christmas quarter in all its businesses except sugar.

“Encouragingly, Primark continues to add ample market share in the UK, and to trade strongly in markets which represent the core of its growth opportunity over the next five years,” wrote Jefferies analysts.

GVC also gained 1.3 percent after saying it expects full-year earnings to be ahead of market consensus thanks to strong growth in its online business.

“The current regulatory and competitive environment casts a continuous shadow over the sector. However, we note that GVC is already trading on around 12 times 2019 price-to-earnings... attractive should we be entering a sustained period of earnings momentum,” wrote Davy Research analysts.

A faller after results was Whitbread, its shares down 1.8 percent after the Premier Inn owner reported weaker sales growth in its UK home market.

Overall analysts have been very downbeat on British companies’ earnings, consistently downgrading their earnings expectations since September.

Housebuilders Berkeley, Barratt Development , and Taylor Wimpey fell 1.6 to 2.2 percent after a survey of property valuers showed the weakest three-month outlook for UK house sales on record in December.

Broker moves drove some big fallers.

ITV dropped to the bottom of the FTSE, down 7.4 percent after Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgraded it to “underperform” from “buy” in a negative note on European broadcaster stocks.

Shares in the British broadcaster were set for their worst fall since February 2018.

easyJet shares were down 3.3 percent, suffering from a downgrade from Barclays.

Leading the FTSE 250 was food delivery company Just Eat , up 2.1 percent. Traders said Morgan Stanley upgraded the stock to “overweight”.

Reporting by Helen Reid; editing by Josephine Mason and Jon Boyle

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