LONDON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Britain's FTSE 100 index is seen opening 16 to 18 points lower, or down by 0.3 percent on Thursday, according to financial bookmakers. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* The UK blue chip index closed flat at 6,898.08 points on Wednesday, stalling after earlier reaching a 15-year high of 6,921.32 points.
* REXAM : - Beverage can maker Ball Corp is close to a deal to buy UK-based Rexam Plc this week, according to people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported.
* HSBC : Herve Falciani, the former HSBC employee who supplied information on the bank's clients and their tax situation, said he was willing to return to Switzerland to stand trial if he was given assurances that he would not face immediate arrest.
* REGUS : The Daily Mail reported revived bid rumours concerning office rental group Regus.
* LLOYDS /RBS : Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland have been in discussions with UK Financial Investments , the agency which manages taxpayers' stakes in the two lenders, about their pay structures for 2014, Sky News reported. (bit.ly/1ET0SZK)
* OIL: Oil prices tumbled on Thursday as U.S. inventories were expected to hit record highs, while a possible rise in Saudi output could stoke oversupply built up in the past few months.
* COPPER: London copper edged lower on Thursday, paring gains from a short-covering burst the session before.
* RIO TINTO : Mongolia's parliament has backed its new prime minister's plan to resolve a long-running dispute with global miner Rio Tinto this year over plans to expand the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper mine.
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