Mediclinic, banks a bright spot on weak FTSE

By Kit Rees
A worker shelters from the rain under a Union Flag umbrella as he passes the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain, October 1, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

By Kit Rees

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's top shares index fell on Thursday, snapping a three-day winning streak as miners and ex-dividends weighed.

Banks provided support as did a jump in Mediclinic's shares, however.

Britain's blue chip FTSE 100 index ended down 0.7 percent at 7,237.17 points, underperforming a slight fall in the broader European market.

First quarter results for British lenders were the main focus as Lloyds reported profit figures beating analysts' expectations, sending its shares 2.3 percent higher, close to pre-Brexit levels.

"I think all the consensus numbers we were looking at looked to be beaten to the upside," Mike van Dulken, head of research at Accendo Markets, said.

"Falling conduct costs, the UK economy holding up, the housing market doing ok - they're all a decent recipe, I think, for Lloyds."

Royal Bank of Scotland also rose 0.3 percent.

Mediclinic was the biggest gainer, soaring 17.5 percent after the Abu Dhabi government scrapped a 20 percent co-payment requirement for treatment at private facilities.

The measure was introduced last July, just after Mediclinic had bought Abu Dhabi private hospital group Al Noor for about $1.7 billion.

"Although we expect little near-term benefit, it adds support to the (long term) investment case so we expect a near-term positive share price reaction on sentiment ahead of more details being disclosed," James Vane-Tempest, equity analyst at Jefferies, said in a note.

Earnings were also a focus for UK housebuilders, another sector which was hit after Britain voted to leave the European Union back in June 2016 due to the sector's dependence on the domestic economy.

Shares in Persimmon advanced 2.4 percent after the housebuilder said that total forward sales revenue including completions was up by about 11 percent year on year, while Taylor Wimpey gained 1.6 percent after a positive update and optimistic outlook for 2017.

The FTSE 100 was pulled lower by firms trading ex-dividend, such as Legal & General, which fell 5.4 percent, and Informa, down 1.8 percent.

Miners also weighed, with Glencore, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton all down between 2.6 percent to 4.7 percent, tracking a weaker copper price. [MET/L]

WPP, the world's largest advertising group, fell 2.4 percent after first-quarter earnings. Its sales growth came in just below expectations with a weak performance in North American weighing.

(Reporting by Kit Rees; Additional reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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