FTSE in the red

Further losses for Vodafone and a disappointing performance from oil stocks took the shine off a strong session for corporate results today.

Royal Bank of Scotland set the pace with a 4% rise, but this was not enough to prevent the FTSE 100 Index sliding 24.3 points to 5851.6 by mid-morning.

Others to benefit in the wake of corporate results included British American Tobacco, as well as Hays and engineering group GKN in the second tier.

But the main focus remained on Vodafone after its assets write-down and accompanying warning over slowing revenues growth.

Investors took fright for a second successive session to leave the mobile phone group 3p lower at 110.75p.

BP and Royal Dutch Shell added to the weakness, falling 6p and 18p respectively to stand at 638.5p and 1809p.

On a brighter note Royal Bank of Scotland shares jumped 73p to 1932p as investors received a 25% dividend boost to go with better-than-expected annual profits of £7.9bn (€11.6bn) and the return of £1bn (€1.46bn) capital via a share buyback.

The banking group was followed by British American Tobacco after it achieved a 9% rise in underlying profits and said it had identified an additional £80m (€117m) of cost savings. Shares were up 38p at 1366p, a gain of 3%.

In the second tier, GKN surged by more than 8% after it impressed investors with better-than-expected profits and said its outlook for growth in 2006 and 2007 appeared strong. It also announced a £200 million injection into its pension fund, lifting shares by 26.75p 343.25p.

Recruitment company Hays gained 7.75p to 146.25p following its results, while a restructuring plan at MFI drew a positive response as shares rose 5% or 4.5p to 94p.

Back in the top flight, poker giant PartyGaming failed to overcome the surprise departure of chief executive Richard Segal, even though profits rose 49%. Shares slipped back following a positive start to stand 1.15p lower at 128.75p.

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