* FTSE 100 falls 0.2 percent
* ITV weakens after trading update
* Compass up; hands back a billion to shareholders
* Ex-divs knock up to 15 points off index
By Tricia Wright
LONDON, May 14 Britain's top shares slipped on
Wednesday, led by ITV on a disappointing trading update, but
investors were still looking for near-term gains by the FTSE 100
after it hit its highest close this century.
ITV, which had risen 5 percent in the two weeks coming into
the update, fell 5.2 percent. Analysts at Citi said its
second-quarter guidance for net advertising revenue was just
short of their 14 percent forecast. They also
said the broadcaster had "some work to do" regaining audience
"We believe that underwhelming 2Q NAR (net advertising
revenue) guidance, in line 1Q revenue and weak audience metrics
could be seen as disappointing today," they said.
The FTSE 100 was down 16.07 points, or 0.2 percent,
at 6,857.01 points by 0811 GMT, after closing at its highest in
14 1/2 years on Tuesday - up 0.3 percent at 6,873.08 points.
Traders were looking to see if the index, which has been
underpinned in recent weeks by a burst of deal-making and bids
alongside signs of a strengthening UK economy, can break above
the all-time high of 6,950.60 points it set in December 1999.
"The FTSE remains underpinned by a strong domestic recovery
and foreign bid speculation. Technically it also looks healthy,"
Lex van Dam, a hedge fund manager at Hampstead Capital, said.
Compass was the standout FTSE 100 riser after the
caterer said it would return 1 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) to
shareholders through a special dividend and raised its interim
dividend to 8.8 pence per share.
"(Before) the figures, my view was that to continue the
upward momentum in the share price something extremely special
would have to be announced ... not only is there a 10 percent
increase in the interim dividend but also (the) special
dividend," said Jordan Hiscott, senior trader at ayondo markets,
who has a six-month target of 1,100 pence for Compass.
The shares, up some 6 percent this year compared with gains
of about 2 percent by the UK benchmark index, rose 4.4 percent
to 1,024 pence.
Investors in the FTSE 100 should not get too carried away,
said Sanlam Securities' head of trading, Mark Ward, although he
did expect the index to set a record.
"We are still buyers at these levels, although we are
cautious that we will be hitting a ceiling at some point," Ward
said. "We think we might see the FTSE as high as 7,000."
That would take the index some 2 percent above current
Stocks trading ex-dividend, including Royal Dutch Shell
, Glencore Xstrata and GlaxoSmithKline
, knocked up to 15 points off the FTSE 100 on
($1 = 0.5939 British Pounds)
(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle and Sudip Kar-Gupta;
Editing by Larry King)