FTSE slips lower as ITV's gloomy advertising outlook overshadows profit growth
Broadcaster ITV saw its shares take a hit despite posting its sixth straight year of double-digit profit growth.
Shares in the group - home to shows including Downton Abbey and The X Factor - sank more than 3% as the firm's downbeat outlook for advertising in the first quarter overshadowed a bumper annual profits haul.
The wider FSTE 100 Index ended largely unchanged, losing initial gains that saw it hit its highest level so far this year, to stand 5.8 points lower at 6147.1.
It comes after a recent rally, with hopes building for the UK economy and the end of a punishing oil price rout.
But the top flight was once more left in the red, even as the cost of Brent crude edged up 0.4% to just under 37 US dollars a barrel.
Germany's Dax and the Cac 40 in France were both just ahead.
The pound was slightly higher against the euro at just over 1.29, on trader expectations that the European Central Bank will boost its stimulus measures next week.
Sterling was just ahead against the US dollar at just over 1.40.
ITV was among the biggest blue-chip fallers, down 8.7p to 240.9p, even though it posted an 18% surge in underlying pre-tax profits to £843 million for 2015 and said it was in line for a summer sporting boost from the Euro 2016 football tournament.
Its falls came as the group cautioned it expects net advertising revenues to be flat and "marginally behind the market" in the first quarter, compared to 12% growth in the same period last year.
Banks were among blue chips making strong gains, with Asian-facing Standard Chartered and HSBC up 22.9p to 454.8p and 10.7p to 471.6p respectively.
Miners were also leading the FTSE 100 higher as Antofagasta rose 17.6p to 508p and Anglo American lifted 32.8p to 524.1p.
Troubled engine maker Rolls-Royce edged 3p lower to 680p, after it said it had given US activist shareholder ValueAct a seat on its board in a move that will give the investor influence over the engine maker as its seeks to turn around its fortunes.
Bradley Singer - a partner and chief operating officer at San Francisco-based fund ValueAct - will become a member of Rolls-Royce's science and technology committee.
In the FTSE 250 Index, lender Virgin Money said annual pre-tax profits surged 53% to £160.3 million in 2015 as its growth in mortgages, savings and credit cards remained a step ahead of the market.
It also cheered investors - including Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group - with its first full-year dividend after floating in 2014.
Shares jumped 7%, or 23.8p to 364p.
The biggest risers in the FTSE 100 Index were Anglo American up 32.8p at 524.1p, Aberdeen Asset Management up 14.5p at 261.7p, Standard Chartered up 22.9p at 454.9p, and BHP Billiton up 38p at 778.4p.
The biggest fallers in the FTSE 100 Index were Intertek down 139p at 2865p, Berkeley Group down 128p at 3118p, ITV down 8.7p at 240.9p, and Persimmon down 70p at 2144p.