M&A, upbeat results help European stocks resume rally

Thu Apr 24, 2014 3:45pm IST

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* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.7 pct, Euro STOXX 50 0.8 pct

* M&A activity boosts Alstom, Scania

* Upbeat results across sectors underpin mood

* Unilever, Michelin fall as fx effects mar results

By Francesco Canepa

LONDON, April 24 (Reuters) - European shares resumed their rise on Thursday, boosted by mergers and acquisitions activity and upbeat updates from electrical gear maker Schneider Electric and oil services group Technip among others.

Shares in Alstom jumped 14.1 percent to the top of the FTSEurofirst 300 after Bloomberg reported that General Electric was in talks to buy the turbine and train maker. The French company said it had not been informed of any potential public tender offer.

Scania was the second-biggest riser, up 9.7 percent, after its fourth-largest shareholder said it would accept Volkswagen's takeover offer for the truck maker, improving prospects for the bid to go through despite strong opposition.

High corporate cash piles and a better economic outlook are fuelling M&A activity in Europe, helping shares advance in the past week and eclipsing investor concerns about tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine.

"The markets at the moment are constantly looking for reassurance, with all that is going on in Ukraine, and M&A activity shows in the corporate world at least it's business as usual," said Farhan Ahmad, a trader at Tradenext.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was up 0.7 percent at 1,348.09 points at 0955 GMT, recouping all losses suffered the previous day and resuming an advance begun last week. The euro zone Euro STOXX 50 index was up 0.8 percent at 3,202.14 points.

The STOXX 600 Europe industrial goods and services index was up 1 percent, also supported by a 5.7 percent rise in Schneider Electric.

The French company reported a rise in first-quarter sales and said business in Western Europe had improved, echoing upbeat results and outlook statements across sectors.

Oil services group Technip, outdoor equipment maker Husqvarna, miner Anglo American, Spanish bank Sabadell and Danish industrial enzymes producer Novozymes all rose after their updates.

About 10 percent of STOXX Europe 600 companies have reported quarterly results so far, with 54 percent in line with or beating forecasts, Thomson Reuters StarMine data showed.

Bucking the trend were Unilever , tyre maker Michelin, and waste treatment and water group Suez Environnement, which fell by between 1.6 percent and 3.6 percent as their results showed the damage of currency effects on earnings.

The euro recently surged to a 2-1/1 year high against a trade-weighted basket of currencies, meaning euro zone exporters lost out when translating their foreign sales into he common currency.

"A lot of companies, and especially exporters, are suffering from the strong euro, and it's not clear that this is entirely priced in by analysts and investors," a Paris-based equity and exchange-traded fund (ETF) trader said.

"The best way to play this is to look for domestic companies, which will suffer less from the strong euro."

A strong euro and stubbornly low euro zone inflation have been a worry for equity investors and the European Central Bank. ECB President Mario Draghi said on Thursday the bank could embark on a broad-based asset purchase programme in the event of a worsening of the inflation outlook.

Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v

Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v

Today's European research round-up (Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson in Paris; Editing by Susan Fenton)

 
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