LONDON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Britain’s FTSE 100 index is seen opening 1 to 4 points higher, or as much as 0.1 percent on Thursday, according to financial bookmakers. For more on the factors affecting European stocks, please click on
* The UK blue chip index ended 1.6 percent firmer on Wednesday at 6,728.04 points, the highest since early December.
* The European Central Bank is poised to announce a plan later in the day to buy government bonds, resorting to its last big policy tool for breathing life into the flagging euro zone economy and fending off deflation.
* A euro zone source said on Wednesday the ECB’s Executive Board has proposed that the bank should buy 50 billion euros ($58 billion) in bonds per month from March.
* SMITHS GROUP - The company extended its relationship with AT&T to transform its global communication services and said the long-term agreement will support Smiths group’s expanding global operations.
* BARCLAYS - New York’s top law enforcer on Wednesday accused Barclays of defying his subpoenas in a probe of high-speed trading in its private “dark pool,” and moved to expand his lawsuit accusing the British bank of fraud.
* ST. JAMES‘S PLACE - The company reported a 17 percent jump in its funds under management to a record 52 billion pounds ($78.7 billion) in 2014, lifted by higher net inflows.
* BALFOUR BEATTY - The company said it expected 2014 profit in its troubled construction unit would be reduced by 70 million pounds ($106 million) after a review assessed its contracts and found a deterioration in project performance.
* ROYAL MAIL - Royal Mail said group revenue for the nine months to Dec. 28 rose 1 percent, marking a slowdown from the half year as competition within the parcel market crimped sales.
* BG GROUP - BG shares rose more than 4 percent on Wednesday. The Independent newspaper’s market report said some punters were pushing rumours that the oil explorer could be subject to a £12-a-share break-up bid from Exxon Mobil or Brazil’s Petrobas.
* QUINDELL - Ben Harrington’s Betaville blog reports that law firm Slater & Gordon is in exclusive talks to buy Quindell’s legal services division. Quindell and Slater & Gordon declined to comment, the blog said.
* The British government said on Wednesday it would try to pass a law to force tobacco firms to sell cigarettes in plain packets without branding in England before May, ending years of debate and lobbying over the issue.
* AIRLINES - Legacy airlines such as British Airways, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa could soon start using low-cost carriers like Ryanair and easyJet to feed people onto their long-haul routes, say Ryanair executives.
* WOLSELEY - The plumbing supplies group said it was considerng exiting its remaining building materials business in France, where trading has proved tough.
* TULLOW OIL - The company said its EPIR-1 exploration well encountered oil and wet gas shows over a 100 metre interval of non-reservoir quality rocks.
* MONITISE - The British mobile banking technology company said it was reviewing its strategic options and warned on full-year revenue, blaming its transition to a subscription-based business model.
* OXFORD INSTRUMENTS - The maker of nanotechnology tools said it expected higher revenue for the second half, but would fall short of market expectations due to weak trading in Russia and Japan.
* The Number Of Britons switching bank accounts grew by 12 percent to 1.16 million in 2014, marking progress in the government’s push to boost competition, the Payments Council said on Thursday.
* Oil prices dipped and London copper slipped from one-week highs anead of the ECB’s policy meeting.
TODAY‘S UK PAPERS
> Financial Times
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