* ABF surges after posting higher interim profits
* Bid speculation lifts AstraZeneca for second day
* FTSE edges up 0.1 pct
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, April 23 A rise in the share prices of
Associated British Foods and drugmaker AstraZeneca
buoyed Britain's top equity index on Wednesday, leaving
the market near a two-week high.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index edged up by 0.1
percent, or 3.61 points, to 6,685.37 points in early session
Clothing and foods conglomerate Associated British Foods
(ABF) surged 7.6 percent after posting higher interim profits,
while ongoing bid speculation lifted AstraZeneca by 1.7 percent,
and together ABF and AstraZeneca added the most points to the
"Associated British Foods have come out with a strong set of
numbers, while with AstraZeneca, the bid speculation is the key
headline that's still in the background," said Dafydd Davies,
senior trader at London-based Prime Wealth Group.
AstraZeneca's rise built on a 4.7 percent gain on Tuesday,
after The Sunday Times had reported a possible $100 billion deal
between U.S. peer Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
Both companies declined to comment on the report, with
AstraZeneca due to post first quarter figures on Thursday, but
the prospect of consolidation within the pharmaceuticals sector
also lifted Shire and GlaxoSmithKline for a
second consecutive day.
The FTSE 100 hit a peak of 6,867 points in late January, its
highest level since early 2000, but has since slipped back due
to concerns over a slump in emerging markets economies and
tensions between Russia and Western powers over Ukraine.
Hantec Markets analyst Richard Perry said that if the FTSE
did not break above the 6,706 point level - which marked a high
point from earlier in April - it could make limited progress in
"If it does not get above 6,706 points, it could send out a
bit of a sell signal," he said.
(Editing by Catherine Evans)