FTSE lower despite BSkyB progress

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The FTSE 100 index slipped 10.9 points to 5958.5 in early trading

BSkyB continued to dominate the headlines in the City after another strong set of results from the satellite broadcaster increased the pressure on Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to hike its offer for the group.

With BSkyB posting a 26% rise in half-year operating profits to £520 million, shares rose another 7p to 764.5p and are well above the 700p proposed by News Corp in the summer before it embarked on its quest for regulatory approval.

The wider FTSE 100 Index was down 10.9 points at 5958.5 after the Dow Jones Industrial Average failed to maintain its position above the 12,000 mark in the US.

Asian markets were mixed as Japan reported accelerating export growth but expectations remained that China was gearing up for another interest rate hike to dampen economic growth.

Other risers in London included pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca after it reported a smaller-than-expected drop in fourth-quarter profits of 5% on a year earlier to 2.7 billion US dollars (£1.7 billion).

Outside the top flight, shares in Harvester owner Mitchells & Butlers jumped 4% as it said a bumper Christmas trading period helped it overcome weather disruption in the early part of December.

Shares were 14.6p higher at 357.4p as it revealed a 2.5% rise in like-for-like sales for the nine weeks to January 22.

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