* FTSE 100 up 0.3 pct, led by life insurers
* StanLife rises after Ignis AM deal
* L&G boosted by annuity contract
* Lloyds falls as UK government cut stake
By Francesco Canepa
LONDON, March 26 Life insurers helped Britain's
FTSE 100 edge higher on Wednesday after a contract win
by Legal & General and Standard Life's move to expand its funds
business with an acquisition.
Shares in Standard Life rose 5 percent to the top the
of the FTSE, as the company said it was acquiring Ignis Asset
Management. It expects the deal to boost its earnings and help
it cut costs over the next three years.
Life insurance and pensions provider Legal & General Group
rose 2.8 percent on the strength of a 3 billion-pound
($5 billion) bulk annuity contract with the ICI Pension Fund.
Despite the bounce, L&G's stock is still down roughly 6
percent since last Wednesday, when the UK government said it
would scrap a system that made it compulsory for most retirees
to buy an annuity. Standard Life has more than recouped the
losses suffered after the announcement.
"The newsflow and momentum for the stocks is certainly on
the up," said Manoj Ladwa, head of trading at TJM Partners,
adding he was especially bullish on Standard Life. "There's more
consolidation to come with the Standard Life deal being
announced, which seems a bolt-on acquisition."
The two stocks helped the FTSE 100 rise 0.3 percent to
6,624.91 points. The index has been rebounding over the past
week, but the upside looks limited after the FTSE failed to get
past its most recent top, around 6,865, earlier this year.
"The move higher should end around (last week's high at)
6,628 but no higher than (an early March's low of) 6,672," said
Anders Söderberg, chief technical analyst at SEB Bank. "My view
is that we are in a top formation and I would like to see the
index coming down to the low 6,000s."
Curbing gains on the index was Lloyds Banking Group
, which fell 4 percent after the British government sold
5.6 billion shares in the bank at a 4.6 percent discount to
Tuesday's closing price.
The deal cuts the state's stake in the firm to less than 25
percent and puts it on course for a complete exit in the next
year, at a profit.
(Reporting By Francesco Canepa; Editing by Larry King)