LONDON, July 18 (Reuters) - Britain’s FTSE 100 index is seen opening down 32-33 points, or 0.5 percent lower on Friday, according to financial bookmakers. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* Futures for the index were down 0.2 percent by 0642 GMT.
* Reports that a Malaysian airliner had crashed triggered a sell-off in very late trade on Thursday, and after market close a U.S. official said it strongly suspected a surface-to-air missile fired by Ukrainian separatists brought down the plane.
Big losses were seen in U.S. and Asian stocks on the back of the news.
* The UK blue chip index closed 46.35 points, or 0.7 percent, lower at 6,738.32 points on Thursday as investors, already jittery on Washington’s move to target big Russian firms with new sanctions, were met with the news of the plane crash.
* IAG : British Airways said that it was keeping its once-a-day route between Heathrow airport and Kiev under review.
* GLAXOSMITHKLINE : China will publicly prosecute a foreign couple linked to the drugmaker on charges of illegally obtaining private information, the country’s state media said.
* SHIRE : Shire and U.S. drugmaker Abbvie Inc plan to announce a $53 billion merger as soon as Friday morning, two people said.
* UK RETAIL BANKS: Britain’s new competition watchdog said it plans to launch a full investigation into banking services for small businesses and personal current account customers later this year after finding a lack of competition among the big banks.
* ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND : State-backed RBS is shuttering a distressed-debt unit as it continues to shrink its investment bank, Bloomberg reported, citing three people familiar with the matter.
Also, as RBS conducts a strategic review of its wealth management business, the bank is mulling the sale of the overseas operations of it private banking arm Coutts, which counts the Queen among its clients, the Financial Times reported.
* HSBC : The British bank is launching a new commercial division in Italy to lure mid-sized companies that export abroad as cash-strapped domestic lenders give up market share. [ID: nL6N0PS39T]
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