LONDON, March 2 (Reuters) - Britain’s FTSE 100 index is seen opening down by 7 to 13 points, or 0.2 percent lower on Monday, according to financial bookmakers. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* The UK blue chip index closed flat at 6,946.66 points on Friday, settling back after having touched a record intraday high of 6,967.24 points.
* CHINA RATE CUT: Weakness in China’s vast manufacturing sector, aggravated by high real borrowing costs and weak demand, appears to have driven the central bank to accelerate the pace of monetary easing to ward off deflation in the world’s second-largest economy. Cuts to benchmark lending and deposit rates, announced by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) on Saturday evening, pre-empted official data released on Sunday that showed a second consecutive month of shrinking manufacturing activity for February.
* OIL PRICE: Oil stayed in the red on Monday on supply concerns despite partly recovering from earlier losses after a private business survey showed an improvement in China’s manufacturing sector in February.
* UK HOUSE PRICES: British house prices rose by the smallest annual amount since September 2013 in February, after the first monthly drop in house prices in five months, figures from mortgage lender Nationwide showed on Monday.
* TECH SECTOR: Chip maker NXP Semiconductors NV has agreed to buy smaller peer Freescale Semiconductor Ltd and merge operations in a deal valuing the combined company at over $40 billion.
* IAG /AER LINGUS : International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) is to make “concrete proposals” to the Irish government next week to try and convince it to sell its 25 percent stake in Aer Lingus, the Sunday Business Post reported.
* GLAXOSMITHKLINE /NOVARTIS : GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis said on Monday they had completed a series of asset swaps worth more than $20 billion that will reshape both drugmakers.
* INTERTEK : British product-testing firm Intertek Group posted a 2.3 percent rise in full-year revenue, at constant currency, helped by demand for testing in the textile, electrical and building products sectors.
* TRINITY MIRROR : Trinity Mirror said it would pay a dividend for the first time since 2008 after tight cost control and digital advertising sales helped the British newspaper publisher to stem the rate of revenue decline.
* AFREN : Oil and gas company Afren said it had deferred a debt payment and was continuing talks with bondholders.
* KELLER : Keller Group Plc, a British ground engineering contractor, posted a 15 percent rise in full-year pretax profit, helped by a gradual recovery in the United States, its largest market by revenue.
* HISCOX : Lloyd’s of London underwriter Hiscox Ltd reported a 5.5 percent drop in full-year pre-tax profit as fierce competition and fewer catastrophes dragged on insurance and reinsurance prices.
* THORNTONS : Chocolate maker Thorntons posted lower first-half sales and profits.
* UK BANKS: The Liberal Democrats have called upon Chancellor George Osborn to increase U.K. banks’ tax bill by 1 billion pounds a year to help eliminate Britain’s 30 billion pound structural deficit, the Financial Times reported.
* BHP BILLITON : Australian nickel explorer Sirius Resources SIR.AX will supply BHP Billiton’s Nickel West division in Australia with much-needed nickel-in-concentrate under a three-year supply agreement, Sirius said on Monday.
* UK DIESEL TAX: The British government rejected calls on Sunday to raise taxes on diesel vehicles to reduce air pollution but said it will consider a national network of low-emission zones.
* NEWS CORP : Former editor of the now-defunct tabloid News of the World, Rebekah Brooks is all set to make a comeback to her alma mater News Corp. , to run its social media news agency Storyful, the Financial Times reported.
* BP : John Browne, the former chief executive of BP BP.L, will take charge of a $10 billion oil and gas venture backed by Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman to help it expand internationally through partnerships and acquisitions, the Financial Times reported.
* RWE /DEA: German utility RWE will complete a 5 billion euro ($5.60 billion) deal to sell oil and gas unit DEA to Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman on Monday, despite a late British move to block part of the sale, the company said on Sunday.
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)