FTSE 100 OPEN: L&G on top with dividend hike

Insurer Legal & General was the biggest riser after it announced a rise in operating profits and hiked its full-year dividend by 35%.

Operating profit increased by £54m to just over £1 billion during 2011, as its full-year dividend increased by 35% year-on-year to 6.4p per share.

Tim Breedon, group chief executive of L&G, says: “Following the combination of growth and strong cash generation the board is recommending a full-year dividend of 6.40p per share – a 35% increase. At this enhanced level, the dividend is 2.25 times covered by net cash generation.”

The group saw share price increase by 4.1% to 130.4p in early trading (at 0814 GMT) following the news.

Other early risers inclued a number of financial stocks, buoyed by news from the US, as the Federal Reserve revealed that many banks were strongly capitalised.

Barclays rose by 2.7% to 246.05p, Man Group increased by 2.2% to 142.5p, as Royal Bank of Scotland Group climbed 2.1% higher to 26.31p.

The only non-financial riser in the top five FTSE 100 stocks early on was Tullow Oil, which increased by 1.7% to 1,479p, after reporting a 499% rise in pre-tax profits, increasing to just under $1.1 billion (£702.5m) from $179m in 2010.

Security services company G4S was the biggest faller, dropping by 2.2% to 277.4p (at 0817 GMT).

Engineer Meggitt dropped by 1.2% to 403.4p, while real estate investor Hammerson slipped 1.1% to 424.1p. Its peer Smiths Group also shed 1% to 1,090p.

Hargreaves Lansdown completed the bottom five fallers, dropping 0.8% to 476.p