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. The FTSE 100 futures contract for March were down by 0.1 percent. 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.
* GREECE: Greece is expected to ask on Thursday for an extension to its “loan agreement” with the euro zone as it faces running out of cash within weeks, but it must overcome resistance from sceptical partners led by Germany.
* REXAM : British drinks can maker Rexam Plc said U.S. rival Ball Corp had made a cash-and-stock offer that valued the company at about 4.43 billion pounds ($6.85 billion).
* BAE SYSTEMS : Europe’s biggest defence contractor BAE Systems said it expected earnings to rise marginally this year after it reported annual earnings broadly in line with forecasts.
* SAB MILLER : International brewer SABMiller said on Thursday the group’s chief financial officer Jamie Wilson had resigned for personal reasons and will leave on March 31, the end of the firm’s current financial year.
* CENTRICA : Utility Centrica posted lower annual profits.
* SPORTS DIRECT : Britain’s biggest sporting goods retailer Sports Direct saw sales growth slow across its Christmas quarter, in part due to a weak winter sports season that proved challenging for its Austrian business.
* GO AHEAD : Transport company Go Ahead raised its dividend and posted higher half-year profits.
* 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.
* INVESTMENT BANKING: Britain’s financial watchdog will launch its first review of competition in investment banking and corporate banking services, saying the benefits of improvements could be high.
* RATHBONE : British wealth manager Rathbone Brothers reported a 3.4 percent increase in full-year pretax profit as it raked in more new money from clients, helped by its takeover of some assets of Deutsche Bank and Jupiter Fund Management.
* 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.
TODAY‘S UK PAPERS
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> Other business headlines Multimedia versions of Reuters Top News are now available for: * 3000 Xtra : visit topnews.session.rservices.com * BridgeStation: view story .134 For more information on Top News visit topnews.reuters.com (Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta)