Coca-Cola deal provides some fizz for Ftse stocks

Britain’s top share index ended little changed after reaching a two-month high, though a rise in Ashtead Group and bottler Coca-Cola Hellenic provided support.

The Ftse 100 was flat at 7,041.42 points at its close, with trading volume low. The index had touched a fresh two-month high in early deals, having posted its highest close since October 11 in the previous session.

Coca-Cola Hellenic was up 1.3% after Coca-Cola bought a majority stake in an African bottling firm from AB InBev for $3.15bn (€3.03bn).

Coca-Cola said it planned to hold all operations temporarily until they can be refranchised to other partners. Its existing bottling partners include Coca-Cola European Partners and Coca-Cola Hellenic.

Analysts said that CCH was well positioned to secure the bottling rights due to its experience in Africa, and that the deal looked like good value, coming in under expectations of $4bn or more.

Shares in Ashtead climbed 1.3% after Credit Suisse raised its target price for the stock, citing a boost for the stock from its US exposure. “We raise our FY18E and FY19E estimates... reflecting a stronger demand outlook in the wake of the US presidential election,” analysts at Credit Suisse said in a note.

Oil and gas stocks retreated 0.1%, with Royal Dutch Shell down 0.4% after oil prices edged lower on a surprise build in US crude inventories.

Falls on the FTSE 100 were broad-based, with fund firm Hargreaves Lansdown down 3%, health care stock Hikma down 1.4% and Merlin Entertainments dropping 1.2%. Capita fell after Goldman Sachs cut its target price on the stock to 595 pence from 771 pence, but recovered some of its losses to end 0.7% lower.


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