Upbeat earnings hoist Britain's FTSE to 7-week high

Reuters - UK Focus

* FTSE 100 index gains 0.8 pct

* BP (LSE: BP.L - news) up; raises dividend, promises more share buybacks

* St. James's Place gains on positive update

* Shire (LSE: SHP.L - news) hit by fading bid hopes; traders say buy on dips

By Tricia Wright

LONDON, April 29 (Reuters) - Britain's blue chip shares hita seven-week high on Tuesday, bolstered by upbeat corporateearnings reports from oil major BP and wealth manager St.James's Place.

BP, up 2.4 percent, contributed most points to the UKbenchmark index as it raised its quarterly dividend and saidmore share buybacks were on the cards. St. James's Place, which said it got off to a strong start in 2014,advanced 1.8 percent.

"Investors are waiting to see the start of some positiveearnings momentum, which has been missing in recent years. Anysign of a positive momentum is likely to support share prices,"James Butterfill, global equity strategist at Coutts, said.

The FTSE 100 was up 53.68 points, or 0.8 percent, at6,753.84 points by 1437 GMT, after hitting an intra-day peak of6,762.14 points, its highest level since early March.

Barclays Capital analyst Lynnden Branigan said that a closeabove the high seen on April 4, at 6,706, could pave the way forthe index to rise to the high seen on March 4, at 6,827.

Shire, the top blue-chip percentage gainer for muchof the session, turned negative in afternoon trade. Tradersattributed the turnaround to a report that Botox-maker Allergan (Berlin: AG4.BE - news), which had been rumoured to be interested in buying theBritish drugmaker, is instead looking to sell itself.

Allergan (NYSE: AGN - news) is exploring a sale to Sanofi (NasdaqGM: GCVRZ - news) or Johnson& Johnson in order to fend off a takeover bid byValeant, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of thematter. This would rule out a purchase of Shire.

But traders remained bullish on Shire, which is up about 15percent over the last two weeks on speculation it has beenrebuffing approaches from U.S. rivals such as Allergan,alongside a burst of deal-making and bids in the healthcareindustry.

Its shares, which tested record highs hit in March earlierin the session, fell 0.4 percent.

"I think any dip's going to be short-lived because I thinkthe sector's quite interesting at the moment," said Manoj Ladwa,head of trading at TJM Partners.

(Additional reporting by Atul Prakash and Alistair Smout;Editing by Susan Fenton)

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