* FTSE 100 nudges up by 2.52 points
* Capita, BAT among companies to report good results
* WPP hit on margin concerns
* RBS and RSA fall as new CEOs undertake overhauls
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, Feb 27 Britain's top share index held
steady on Monday, struggling for direction near all-time highs
as investors digested mixed corporate updates with earnings
season in full swing.
The FTSE 100 edged up by 2.52 points to 6,801.67
points at 0846, just 2.2 percent off 1999's all time high, led
by a 5 percent surge in Capita.
The British outsourcing group posted a 14 percent rise in
annual profits on Thursday and said it was confident on 2014
after winning 588 million pounds ($978.3 million) worth of new
contracts so far this year.
Heavily weighted British American Tobacco
contributed 2.6 points to the index's advance, after gaining 1
percent after the world's No. 2 cigarette maker said 2013 core
earnings rose 6 percent, helped by growth in market share.
Other beneficiaries from better earnings reports were
Reed Elsevier, up 1.8 percent after it said it was confident for
2014 following a rise in earnings, and Whitbread, up 2.1
percent as it expects profit to come in at the top of forecasts.
In the earnings season thus far, 69 percent of FTSE 100
companies that have reported results have come in ahead or in
line with expectations, Thomson Reuters StarMine data shows.
"As a whole, we haven't had too many bad shocks with regards
to results," Toby Morris, senior sales trader at CMC Markets,
said. "However, it's a little bit concerning how many firms are
coming out and being a little bit tentative about 2014 ... it
puts a bit of a dampener on things."
One such firm was the world's largest advertiser WPP
down 6.3 percent despite reporting strong trading, with Liberum
and Numis both raising concern over a hit to margins and lower
margin guidance moving forward.
"Full-year results were below our expectations due to a
margin miss ... However, the main reason for the downgrade is
that WPP has taken down its longer-term margin improvement
targets," Liberum said in a note, cutting the stock to "hold"
"While January has started well and the share buyback
programme has increased, this does not offset the disappointing
message on margin improvement."
Royal Bank of Scotland was another high profile
faller, down 5.6 percent after its new CEO outlined plans for a
large-scale overhaul after reporting an 8.2 billion pound
($13.64 billion) loss.
"We're so far from being out of the other side of the tunnel
with this stuff, it's unbelievable. It's another reminder that
we're six years on from the onset of this, and they're still
paying for it more than ever," CMC's Morris said.
Troubled British insurer RSA also fell as it too
seeks to move forward with a restructuring programme, with
ex-RBS CEO Stephen Hester at the helm.
It fell 3.2 percent after Hester launched a plan to boost
capital by up to 1.6 billion pounds, half of which will be
tapped from shareholders and the rest from disposals and money
saved from a dividend cut.