* FTSE 100 up 0.4 percent
* Vodafone buoyed by bid speculation as VZW deal completes
* Analysts reckon index will hit all-time high in near term
By Tricia Wright
LONDON, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Britain's top shares advanced on Friday, led up by strong gains from index heavyweight Vodafone , as analysts bet the FTSE 100 could hit a new record high in the near term.
Vodafone rose 2.8 percent to 235.95 pence, with BofA Merrill Lynch and UBS highlighting the potential for the British firm to become a bid target after it completes the sale of its stake in U.S. mobile phone company Verizon Wireless.
Vodafone has said its shares would be consolidated on Feb. 24 at the ratio of six new shares for 11 existing shares following the closure of the deal on Friday.
"'New Vodafone'... starts near a sector multiple at 6.1 times, too low in our view," UBS said in a note. "If the market does not realise this value, we wonder if a third party could."
UBS raised its target price on Vodafone to 275 pence from 260 pence.
Vodafone added a hefty 12 points to the FTSE 100 on Friday, with the index up 29.80 points, or 0.4 percent, at 6,842.79 points by 0859 GMT, taking its rally since an early February low to almost 7 percent.
"The market is reasserting its strength, and I am inclined to follow it," Valerie Gastaldy, head of technical analysis firm Day-By-Day, said.
"(The) FTSE 100 should be heading to its all-time high at 6,950 soon."