* STOXX 600 down 0.2 pct
* Utilities best sectoral performers
* Disappointments from Capita, Travis Perkins weigh
* Engie rises on results beat
* Drug trial success boosts Roche
* Adecco drops after results
* Eyes on Luxottica's drop after lukewarm results
By Helen Reid
LONDON, March 2 European shares edged back on
Thursday after a strong rally in the previous session, though
there were strong gains from Britain's Melrose and Norway's
Subsea after well-received results.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.1
percent. Utilities stocks were the top gainers while
real estate stocks were the biggest losers.
The European earnings season was moving into its latter
stages with figures having impressed so far.
"With 75 percent of companies having reported, STOXX 600 Q4
earnings per share are up 12.1 percent year on year, the
strongest number since Q4 2013," Deutsche Bank analysts said.
British mid-cap engineering turnaround specialist Melrose
Industries was the top gainer and hit a record high,
last up 13.5 percent, after its full-year revenue more than
tripled, helped by its acquisition of U.S. ventilation maker
Subsea 7, the Norwegian oil services company, was
up 11.5 percent after it posted a fourth-quarter earnings beat
and said it would pay a special dividend.
The firm had been a short selling target, with 8.8 percent
of it shares outstanding on loan according to IHS Markit, though
this number diminished 10 percent in the past month.
Engie, the French gas and power company, was the top CAC 40
gainer, up 6.2 percent and headed for its best day in
nearly 5 1/2 years after it posted 2016 earnings in line with
Engie, which is 28.7 percent government-owned, said it could
achieve 85 percent of its planned asset sales by the end of
2017, and announced the acquisition of British company Keepmoat
Successful drug trials helped shares of Swiss
pharmaceuticals company Roche to gain 5.2 percent, on
track for its best daily gains in eight years. Its Perjeta and
Herceptin drugs reduced the recurrence of aggressive breast
cancer, its key Aphinity study found.
French advertiser JC Decaux was a top gainer, up
4.2 percent after its results came in ahead of analysts'
consensus. Its shares hit their highest level since early June
British outsourcing firm Capita sank to the bottom
of the STOXX, down 7.3 percent after posting disappointing
results and announcing its CEO's departure.
British housebuilder Travis Perkins was a top
European faller after it posted a decline in profit due to weak
performance in its plumbing and heating business.
Italian eyewear maker Luxottica, in focus due to its
mega-merger with French lens maker Essilor, was down 3.2
percent, the FTSE MIB top faller after it posted a slight drop
in profit for 2016 after market close on Wednesday.
"We think this is good enough in this phase, as focus is on
the planned merger with Essilor," Deutsche Bank analysts said,
adding retail profit evolution and Ray-Ban overall performance
would be their areas of focus in the call with investors.
The world's largest provider of temporary staff Adecco
was among top fallers, down 3.9 percent despite
reporting better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings.
(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)