London (AFP) – Talk of mergers and acquisitions in the health sector helped London shares finish higher on Thursday as the FTSE overcame profit taking after strong quarterly earnings.

The benchmark FTSE 100 index ended the session 28.26 points, or 0.42 percent, higher at 6,703.00 points.

Medical equipment company Smith and Nephew led the risers, settling 3.35 percent higher at 909.0 pence after US artificial joint maker Zimmer Holdings said it would buy orthopaedic products group Biomet in a deal worth $ 13.35 billion.

Smith and Nephew also makes hip and knee joints and rejected a merger with Biomet in 2011, raising expectations that it could too become a takeover target.

British drugs giant AstraZeneca’s shares were the day’s next highest climber, up 3.28 percent at 4,175.0 pence despite news earlier in the day that first quarter profits had halved.

Investors instead focused on reports the company could be taken over by US rival Pfizer, as well as signs the firm had turned a corner after a restructuring programme.

AstraZeneca said it would not comment on the takeover reports.

Building materials firm Travis Perkins led the fallers, ending the session 3.77 percent down at 1,763.0 pence, followed by Associated British Foods, owner of the Primark brand, which finished 3.27 percent down at 2,865.0 pence.

Both firms appeared to have been subject to profit taking by investors taking advantage of a recent surge in prices on the back of strong earnings figures.

Lloyds Banking Group was the session’s most traded share, with 106.6 million shares changing hands, followed by Vodafone Group with 57.7 million.

On the currency markets, sterling had strengthened slightly by 5.26 pm to $ 1.1680 compared to $ 1.6777 a day earlier, and also strengthened against the euro to trade at 1.2151 euros compared to 1.2141 euros the previous day.