BG, Shell boost Britain's FTSE after profits rise

Thu Jul 31, 2014 3:27am EDT

* FTSE 100 up 0.2 pct

* BG and Shell boost energy sector

* Astra shows resilience after Pfizer bid

* Weir falls after profit dip

By Alistair Smout

EDINBURGH, July 31 (Reuters) - British blue chip shares rose on Thursday, boosted by better than expected earnings reports, with the oil and gas sector lifted by rising profits.

BG Group rose 3.8 percent, the top FTSE 100 riser, after posting a 11 percent rise in profits, while Royal Dutch Shell, the index's biggest stock, rose 2 percent after earnings rose 33 percent.

The oil and gas sector rose 1.5 percent.

Energy stocks added 20 points to the FTSE 100 index, which was up 13.81 points, or 0.2 percent, at 6,787.25.

AstraZeneca also rose after the drugmaker smashed forecasts for second-quarter sales and earnings, demonstrating resilience after seeing off a $118 billion takeover approach from rival drugmaker Pfizer two months ago.

"Astra's (results) look very good and I think it was essential for them to provide shareholders with confidence following the ending of the Pfizer bid," Mark War, Head of Execution Trading and Sanlam Securities, said.

For the FTSE 100, 71 percent of companies that have reported earnings so far have beaten or met expectations. UK companies are outperforming the broader European market, as on the STOXX Europe 600 just 55 percent have beaten or met expectations.

"Earnings season thus far has remained solid for UK corporates and we are pleased to see margin growth, leading to EPS upgrades, forward looking forecasts ahead of expectations," Atif Latif, director of trading at Guardian Stockbrokers, said.

"We are pleased that the earnings will allow the market to push back higher from this level."

However, on a busy earnings day some companies came in worse than expected.

British engineering firm Weir Group fell 4.2 percent on Thursday reported a six percent fall in first-half profits due to adverse foreign exchange conditions. (Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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