(Adds news items, futures)
April 29 (Reuters) - Britain's FTSE 100 .FTSE index is seen opening 15 points higher at 6,979 on Thursday, according to financial bookmakers, with futures FFIc1 seen up 0.2% ahead of cash market open.
* SHELL: Royal Dutch Shell RDSa.L raised its dividend by 4% after reporting stronger-than-expected first-quarter profits due to asset sales and higher oil and liquefied natural gas prices. NATWEST: British lender NatWest NWG.L returned to profit in the first quarter of 2021 after joining rivals in releasing some of the cash it had set aside to cover expected bad loans due to the pandemic. UNILEVER: Unilever ULVR.L reported higher-than-expected underlying sales growth for the first quarter, buoyed by double-digit increases in India and China. St. JAMES'S PLACE PLC: British wealth manager St. James's Place Plc SJP.L reported a record 135.46 billion pounds ($189.06 billion) in funds under management in the first quarter on Thursday, as massive government stimulus and aggressive COVID-19 vaccination drives fuelled investor sentiment. HEATHROW: Heathrow, Britain's biggest airport, said losses widened in its first quarter as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to hammer travel. DS SMITH: Britain's DS Smith SMDS.L said it expects to report annual results in line with expectations, as a pandemic-driven boom in online shopping boosted its sales volumes and improved performance in the United States. WH SMITH PLC: UK's WH Smith Plc SMWH.L on Wednesday warned of the possible risk of breaching its covenant tests in 2022 after it slumped to a first-half loss and launched a potential 325 million-pound ($450 million) bonds offering as the retailer navigates the COVID-19 crisis. LONDON STOCK EXCHANGE GROUP: The London Stock Exchange Group LSEG.L said on Wednesday its forecast for expenditure following its $27 billion acquisition of data and analytics company Refintiv remains unchanged. ASTRAZENECA: Argentina's government said on Wednesday it had met with representatives of drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc AZN.L to ask about "difficulties" in the production of its COVID-19 vaccine and supply to the country. OIL: Oil prices extended gains after rising 1% the previous session, as bullish forecasts on recovering demand this summer outweighed concerns about the impact of rising COVID-19 cases in India, Japan and Brazil. O/R
* London's FTSE 100 climbed on Wednesday, lifted by energy shares and a slew of upbeat earnings updates from companies including Lloyds Banking Group (LON: LLOY ) and WPP (LON: WPP ) as investors awaited the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy statement. .L
* For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on: LIVE/
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