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March 24 (Reuters) - Britain's FTSE 100 index is seen opening down 41 points, or 0.7 percent lower on Thursday, according to financial bookmakers, with futures down 0.77 percent ahead of the cash market open. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* The UK blue chip index closed up 6.37 points, or 0.1 percent higher on Wednesday at 6,198.50, as Kingfisher, Europe's largest home improvement retailer, beat profit expectations and investors dipped back into the travel sector.
* HEDGE FUND: Lone Pine Capital senior analyst Ran Li is to start a new London-based equities hedge fund backed by the U.S. firm, sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters, in what could prove one of the year's biggest European launches.
* NEXT: British clothing retailer met its latest guidance with a 5 percent rise in annual profit but cautioned 2016 could be the toughest it has faced since 2008 as it anticipates a more difficult economic environment.
* PETRA DIAMONDS: The company, which owns the historic Finsch and Cullinan mines, said on Thursday it had recovered and sold an exceptional 32.33 carat pink diamond from the Williamson mine in Tanzania for $15 million.
* RENISHAW: British precision engineering company cut its full-year revenue and earnings forecasts, citing lack of large orders from the Far East this year.
* BREXIT: Support in Britain for membership of the European Union has declined, two polls showed, suggesting a dispute within the ruling Conservative Party may be undermining Prime Minister David Cameron's campaign for the country to stay in.
* OIL: U.S. oil prices fell in Asian trading on Thursday, adding to a slump in the previous session, after stockpiles rose for the sixth week to another record.
* COPPER: London copper was steady on Thursday, but was facing its largest weekly drop in six after hawkish comments by Federal Reserve members stoked a dollar rally, pushing investors to take profits ahead of a holiday weekend.
* EX-DIVS: Prudential Plc, Schroders Plc and Sky Plc will trade without entitlement to their latest dividend pay-out on Thursday, trimming 4.35 points off the FTSE 100 according to Reuters calculations.
> Financial Times
> Other business headlines (Reporting by Aastha Agnihotri in Bengaluru)