* FTSE 100 up 0.2 percent
* Vodafone buoyed by bid speculation as VZW deal completes
* Analysts reckon index will hit all-time high in near term
* Talk of RBS restructuring boosts share price
By Joshua Franklin
LONDON, Feb 21 Britain's top shares rose on
Friday, lifted by bid speculation around index heavyweight
Vodafone and by investors welcoming possible
restructuring plans at Royal Bank of Scotland.
Mobile operator Vodafone rose 2.3 percent to 235 pence and
was the most traded share on Britain's blue chip FTSE 100 index
Traders highlighted comments by BofA Merrill Lynch and UBS
that Vodafone was a potential bid target after it completes the
sale of its stake in U.S. mobile phone company Verizon Wireless.
UBS raised its target price on Vodafone to 275 pence from
"'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."
Vodafone added the most points to the FTSE, with the index
up by 12.35 points, or 0.2 percent, at 6,825.34 points in
mid-session trading, taking its rally since an early February
low to almost 7 percent.
This put the FTSE on track for weekly gains of around 2.5
percent, its steepest weekly rise since December.
"The market is reasserting its strength, and I am inclined
to follow it," said Valerie Gastaldy, head of technical analysis
firm Day-By-Day, adding that the FTSE should soon be
heading to its all-time high of around 6,950 points.
State-owned lender Royal Bank of Scotland also rose
as analysts welcomed reports that the bank will cut its staff by
up to a quarter, which could help lower RBS' costs.
"The government sell-off of Royal Bank feels a little way
off but if this is as radical as we think it's going to be, then
I think it'll help in that process," said Numis analyst Mike
Shares in housebuilder Persimmon also rose 1.7
percent, as JP Morgan analysts tipped the sector to continue to
benefit from a pick-up in the UK housebuilding industry.