Stocks

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

Various market performance charts

* FTSE 100 down 0.4 pct, FTSE 250 up 0.3 pct

* ITV tumbles 6 pct after BAML downgrades broadcasters

* Sage up 5.4 pct after strong subscription growth

* Primark owner ABF nabs top spot after results (Updates prices)

By Helen Reid

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

The FTSE 100 .FTSE slid 0.4 percent, extending Wednesday'sfall and in line with a slide in euro zone stocks, while thedomestically focused mid-cap FTSE 250 .FTMC rose 0.3 percentas sterling hit its highest since mid-November.

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

May's government won a vote of no confidence on Wednesdayevening by 325 votes to 306, leaving her to try to break theimpasse over how to leave the European Union.

"The Brexit process is no clearer after the government'svictory," wrote David Page, senior economist at AXA InvestmentManagers. "Delay of some format still looks the most likelyoutcome."

May has been scrambling to sound out other parties foralternative proposals that they could agree to.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on ThursdayBrussels was open to the possibility of a "more ambitious"Brexit deal than the one rejected by the British parliament, buthe held out no hope that it could be improved on.

ITV ITV.L dropped to the bottom of the FTSE, down 5.9percent after Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgraded it to"underperform" from "buy" in a negative note on Europeanbroadcaster stocks.

Shares in the British broadcaster had their worst fall sinceFebruary 2018.

EasyJetEZJ.L shares were down 2 percent, suffering from adowngrade from Barclays.

A faller after results was WhitbreadWTB.L , its sharesdown 0.7 percent after the Premier Inn owner reported weakersales growth in its UK home market.

Overall, analysts have been very downbeat on Britishcompanies' earnings, consistently downgrading their expectationssince September.

Housebuilders Berkeley BKGH.L , Barratt DevelopmentBDEV.L , and Taylor WimpeyTW.L fell 0.5 to 1.2 percent aftera survey of property valuers showed the weakest three-monthoutlook for UK house sales on record in December.

Software provider Sage SGE.L jumped 5.4 percent to itshighest since August after it said it had made a strong start toits financial year thanks to software subscription growth of27.7 percent.

Topping the risers, shares in Primark owner ABF ABF.L climbed 6.9 percent after it stuck to its full-year earningsguidance, reporting revenue growth in the Christmas quarter inall its businesses except sugar.

"Encouragingly, Primark continues to add ample market sharein the UK, and to trade strongly in markets which represent thecore of its growth opportunity over the next five years," wroteJefferies analysts.

GVC GVC.L also gained 2.1 percent after saying it expectedfull-year earnings to be ahead of market consensus thanks tostrong growth in its online business.

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

Leading the FTSE 250 was food delivery company Just EatJE.L , up 4.9 percent. Traders said Morgan Stanley upgraded thestock to "overweight".

Helen.Reid@thomsonreuters.com


The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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