(Adds futures, news items)
* LOOKER: Britain's competition watchdog on Thursday gave the go-ahead to Google's GOOGL.O $2.6 billion buyout of privately held big-data analytics firm Looker Data Sciences. Relx: European information group Relx REL.L said it was not yet clear how the outbreak of coronavirus would hit its events business in China or other regions. British utility Centrica CNA.L posted a 35% slump in full-year operating profit, hurt by a government introduced price cap on energy bills as well as lower natural gas prices. Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) European Partners: Coca-Cola European Partners CCEPC.L reported a 4.5% rise in annual revenue and said it expects that to grow in low-single digit in 2020, while also announcing a 1 billion euros ($1.09 billion) share buyback. Property and casualty underwriter Lancashire LRE.L said its earnings for the whole of 2019 quadrupled in comparison with the previous year, boosted by a rise in insurance prices.
* BARCLAYS: Britain's financial regulators are probing historical links between Barclays BARC.L Chief Executive Jes Staley and the U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, the bank said. VODAFONE: An Australian court approved a A$15 billion ($10.1 billion) merger between a unit of Britain's Vodafone Group VOD.L and internet provider TPG Telecom TPM.AX , overruling a regulator and enabling a huge rival to the country's top telcos. HOUSE PRICES: British house prices rose at the fastest pace in nearly three years last month, according to a closely watched survey, that adds to signs of a rebound in consumer sentiment since December's election lifted some Brexit uncertainty. BP: BP BP.L has written to Algeria to express its interest in investing in its oil sector and has not made any request to sell its shares in the In Amenas gas plant, state news agency APS quoted Energy Minister Mohamed Arkab as saying on Wednesday.
* EX-DIVS: BP BP.L , Hargreaves Landsdown HRGV.L , Polymetal International POLYP.L and Shell RDSa.L will trade without entitlement to their latest dividend pay-out on Thursday, trimming 11.7 points off the FTSE 100 according to Reuters calculations. OIL: Oil prices were mixed as concerns about falling demand caused by travel restrictions tied to the coronavirus outbreak in China, the world's biggest oil importer, outweighed expectations of supply cuts from major producers. GOLD: Gold rose as a surge in the number of new coronavirus cases in China dashed hopes that the epidemic was slowing and drove investors to safe-haven assets. UK shares advanced on Wednesday, helped by gains in heavyweight oil firms and on relief that the number of new cases of coronavirus infections out of China was falling. UK PAPERS
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