U.K. Stocks Climb to a Three-Week High as RSA Insurance Advances

Feb 17, 2014 12:04 pm ET

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. stocks climbed to their highest level in three weeks after a report showed asking prices for British homes rose this month.

British Land Co. and Land Securities Group Plc each gained more than 1.5 percent. RSA Insurance Group Plc advanced 2.5 percent following a report that it may sell a business in Canada. Randgold Resources Ltd. added 1.7 percent after Citigroup Inc. raised its recommendation on the shares.

The FTSE 100 Index rose 72.38 points, or 1.1 percent, to 6,736 at the close in London. The index advanced 1.4 percent last week as comments by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen fueled optimism the U.S. economy can withstand reduced monthly bond purchases. The FTSE All-Share Index gained 1 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index climbed 0.7 percent. U.S. markets are closed today for the Presidents’ Day holiday.

“We’re seeing low volumes, clearly related to the U.S. markets being closed today,” said Pierre Mouton, who helps oversee $6 billion at Notz, Stucki & Cie. in Geneva. “U.K. stocks will be good this year because the U.K. economy is recovering. The central bank still has loose monetary policy.”

The number of shares changing hands in FTSE 100-listed companies was 20 percent lower than the average of the past 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

House Prices

Asking prices for U.K. properties jumped 6.9 percent this month from a year earlier, the biggest annual jump since November 2007, a report by Rightmove Plc showed today. Prices rose 3.3 percent from January, according to Britain’s biggest property-listing website.

A gauge of real estate investment trusts listed on the FTSE 350 Index added 1.9 percent. British Land and Land Securities -- the U.K.’s two biggest REITs -- gained 2.3 percent to 680 pence and 1.9 percent to 1,064 pence, respectively.

Hammerson Plc rose 3.1 percent to 560.5 pence after reporting that pretax profit jumped to 341.2 million pounds ($570 million) in 2013 from 142.2 million pounds in 2012. Adjusted net asset value increased 5.7 percent to 573 pence on Dec. 31, Britain’s third-biggest real estate company by market value said in a statement.

RSA climbed 2.5 percent to 98.2 pence. The insurance company has started an auction of Noraxis Capital Corp., a network of insurance brokers in Canada, Sky News reported yesterday without saying where it got the information. The sale could raise as much as 200 million pounds.

Randgold advanced 1.7 percent to 4,857 pence after Citigroup raised its rating on the gold producer to neutral from sell. The brokerage cited the potential for higher earnings. Gold rose 0.7 percent today.

Vodafone, Essar

Vodafone Group Plc gained 1.9 percent to 222.5 pence for the largest contribution to the FTSE 100’s advance as investors awaited the completion of the sale of its stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon Communications Inc. on Feb. 21. Vodafone said on Jan. 28 that its shareholders would receive 1.04 pound per share after the deal based on Verizon’s then share price of about $47.64.

Separately, a report showed Vodafone gained 2.37 million mobile-phone subscribers in India in December, more than any other operator in the country.

A gauge of telecommunications companies in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index rose 0.9 percent. BT Group Plc climbed 2 percent to 404.3 pence.

Essar Energy

Essar Energy Plc added 3.3 percent to 68.2 pence after saying it has formed an independent committee to consider a takeover proposal by Essar Global Fund Ltd. The Indian oil and gas company said in a statement that EGFL, which owns 78 percent of Essar Energy, may offer 70 pence a share for the stock it doesn’t already own and 80 cents apiece for its convertible bonds. Essar Energy, which closed at 60 pence a share on Feb. 13, has since jumped 14 percent, its biggest two-day gain since September 2012.

Action Hotels Plc soared 11 percent to 78.5 pence, the highest price since its initial public offering in December. The Dubai-based company said it has partnered with Whitbread Plc to open the first Premier Inn hotels in the Middle East.

Capital Lease Aviation Plc slid 3.8 percent to 15.75 pence, its biggest drop since October. The company said first-half earnings fell to 1.26 cents a share from 2.09 cents a year earlier.

--Editors: Will Hadfield, Cecile Vannucci