StockMarketWire.com - After drifting to a seven-week low at the end of January, stocks got off to a flying start to February with the benchmark FTSE 100 index gaining 25 points or 0.35% to 7,311 as of midday Monday.

Leading the index higher were heavyweights BT Group, Diageo, Rentokil and Tesco.

Also helping to lift the index was tobacco giant Imperial Brands which gained 0.4% to £19.59 on news that it had poached Stefan Bomhard, the head of auto retailer Inchcape, to be its new chief executive.

Inchcape shares reversed 0.6% to 653p as it began the search for Bomhard's replacement.

Budget carrier Ryanair climbed 4.5% to €15.57 as it swung to profit in the third quarter of its financial year, having flown more passengers and charged hire fares.

Media company Future bounced 7.2% to £13.60 after it guided for full-year results 'materially ahead' of current market expectations, despite some uncertainty in the macro-economic environment.

Future shares were hammered 16% on Friday after hedge fund ShadowFall published a Sell note on the company.

Hostel owner Safestay rose 2.7% to 38p as it boosted its annual operating earnings by 11%, owing to higher bed rates and occupancy levels.

Investment manager River and Mercantile shed 3.3% to 264p, even as its first-half assets under management rose 6.2%, although growth slowed to just 1.4% in the second quarter of its financial year through June.

Respiratory diseases focused Verona Pharma dropped 6.7% to 49p on announcing the departures of chief executive Jan-Anders Karlsson and chief financial officer Piers Morgan.

They had been replaced by David Zaccardelli and Mark W. Hahn, respectively, both of who had joined from Dova Pharmaceuticals, which had recently been acquired by Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

Medical imaging technology company Polarean Imaging was also hurt by changes at the top, falling 5.2% to 29.4p amid the departure of chairman Richard Morgan and non-executive director Robert Bertoldi.

Morgan had been replaced as chairman by current director Jonathan Allis, the founder and chief executive of Blue Earth Diagnostics, which was recently acquired by Bracco Imaging for $450m.

Fire safety product distributor FireAngel fell 8.2% to 14p, having announced that it expected to suffer a further exceptional charge from increased product replacement costs.


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