(Adds company news)
May 18 (Reuters) - Britain’s FTSE index was up 0.09 percent at 0712 GMT.
* JUST GROUP: Private equity investor Permira said on Friday it had sold its entire stake in British specialist pensions provider Just Group for 143 pence a share.
* OPHIR ENERGY: Ophir Energy (LON: OPHR ) Chief Executive Officer Nicholas Cooper will step down with immediate effect, the Asia- and Africa-focused oil producer said on Friday.
* DUNELM: British retailer Dunelm Group Plc said on Friday it has appointed Laura Carr as its new Chief Financial Officer.
* HIKMA: Hikma Pharmaceuticals Plc said its generics business had a good start to the year helped by a favourable product mix, despite continued pricing pressure in the United States.
* SAINSBURY: Britain’s competition regulator on Friday invited all interested parties in the proposed deal to combine Sainsbury’s with Walmart’s WMT.N Asda to comment on the impact it could have.
* LLOYDS BANKING GROUP: Lloyds Banking Group (LON: LLOY ) said on Friday it had sold its Irish residential mortgage portfolio to Barclays (LON: BARC ) BARC.L for around 4 billion pounds ($5.4 billion) in cash, as part of a plan to focus on its core UK market.
* BARCLAYS: Activist investor Edward Bramson is calling on Barclays to end the bulk of trading activities at its investment bank, in a radical plan to cut costs and boost returns at the British lender.
* RYANAIR: Ryanair said its issues with pilot staffing have stabilised, with would-be Ryanair pilots queueing up to join after the company decided to recognise unions and offer direct contracts.
* GSK: GlaxoSmithKline is putting more marketing muscle behind its new lung drugs and is looking for a sales boost as top respiratory experts gather to analyse clinical trials data at a meeting in San Diego this weekend.
* RBS (LON: RBS ): The British unit of Spain's biggest bank Banco Santander (MC: SAN ) SA plans to apply for a slice of the 775 million pounds of funds that RBS agreed to make available to stimulate competition in the U.K. small-business lending market, Bloomberg reported.
* BP (LON: BP ): BP Plc and ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP ) are in discussions for an asset swap deal that would see the U.K. energy major gain a greater foothold in a key project in the North Sea and the U.S. explorer get Alaskan assets, Bloomberg reported.
* SAINSBURY: UK Business secretary Greg Clark has written to the UK competition regulator insisting that its inquiry into J Sainsbury (OTC: JSAIY )'s proposed takeover of Asda must look at the implications for supermarket suppliers., FT reported.
* GOLD: Gold prices edged down on Friday to near their lowest levels this year, pressured by a firm U.S. dollar amid surging U.S. Treasury yields.
* OIL: Oil prices held firm on Friday on strong demand, ongoing supply cuts led by producer cartel OPEC and looming U.S. sanctions against major crude exporter Iran.
* The UK blue chip index closed 53.77 points higher at 7787.97 on Thursday, as strong oil prices helped the index seal its highest ever closing level.
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