Markets & Finance

On the Move: Allianz, Investor, AXA


Plus:Novartis, Fastweb, ABN Amro and other European companies making headlines Thursday

From Standard & Poor's European MarketScope

United Kingdom

INTERCONTINENTAL HOTELS (IHG) was up £0.23 to £12.43. Shares rose on talk that US property investor Starwood Capital is interested in the company.

MITCHELLS & BUTLERS was down £0.05 to £6.81. Traders said Citigroup is placing 5 million shares between £6.75/sh and £6.77/sh.

VODAFONE (VOD) was unchanged at £1.49. Speculation that the company is interested in taking a stake in Fastweb has resurfaced. UBM meanwhile is still looking for investors to complete the sale of its position in Fastweb.

DSG INTERNATIONAL was up £0.03 to £1.74. JP Morgan upgraded the company to neutral from underweight and trimmed its target price to £1.75 from £1.85. SocGen downgraded the company to hold from buy and cut its target to £1.77 from £2.24.

ST JAMES'S PLACE was down £0.01 to £4.15. UBS lifted its target to £4.50 from £4.35 and retained its neutral rating.

PRUDENTIAL (PUK) was up £0.04 to £7.27. UBS raised its target to £8.00 from £7.60 and retained its neutral rating.

FRIENDS PROVIDENT was up £0.01 to £2.24. UBS tweaked up its target to £2.55 from £2.45 and retained a buy rating.

France

ALSTOM was up €2.50 to €96.40. The company reported nine months sales of €14.3 billion, +34%; third quarter sales of €3.42 billion, +15%. It said the order book stands at €31 billion.

AGF was up €1.90 to €126.60. Allianz (AZ) wants to launch an imminent buyout of minority stakes in the company, according to Le Figaro newspaper. The deal is reportedly worth around €10 billion.

AXA (AXA) was up €0.65 to €33.01. JP Morgan lifted its target to €36.6 from €34.1. The broker believes that synergies at Winterthur are ahead of track, and expects an update on this at the end of January.

Germany

MERCK was down €0.38 to €89.15. The company reported quarterly operating profit of €303.3 million, up 58% year-over-year, topping consensus estimates. Sales rose 9% to €1.63 billion. Net income was €129.5 million.

ALLIANZ (AZ) was down €1.21 to €153.00. The company said it intends to takeover 42.4% of the shares in AGF that it does not yet own.

Nordics

TIETOENATOR was down €3.29 to €20.28. The company said its operating profit margin fell to 6.8% in 2006, missing its forecast of 8% due to weak last quarter profits.

SCANIA was down SEK10.50 to SEK453.50. Investor said a merger of the company is a possibility, not a necessity. Investor has rejected MAN's hostile bid and as it owns 30.60% of the votes in the company it can block a takeover.

INVESTOR was up SEK0.50 to SEK170.00. The company's fourth quarter showed that the net asset value increased by SEK10 billion and amounted to SEK159 billion (SEK 208 per share) on Dec. 31 2006.

Netherlands

ABN AMRO was down €0.09 to €24.87. The company's CEO Rijkman Groenink has said that a decision about Capitalia will be taken upon expiry of the shareholder pact in 2008, wrote Il Sole 24 Ore.

Italy

ENI was up €0.18 to €24.54. Goldman said the oil sector is facing near-term turbulence, with earnings squeezed by a falling oil price, escalating cost inflation and production disappointments. It views the company as defensive, thanks to low leverage to oil prices, realistic production targets, a high and sustainable dividend yield and an opportunity for a re-rating of its utilities Gas & Power business.

FASTWEB was up €0.79 to €42.05. Speculation that Vodafone is interested in taking a stake in Fastweb has resurfaced. UBM meanwhile is still looking for investors to complete the sale of its position in the company by the close of business Wednesday.

Spain

BANCO POPULAR was down €0.27 to €14.46. The company said fiscal 2006 net attributable income rose 16.9% to €1.026 billion. Fiscal 2006 net interest income came in at €2.07 billion.

Switzerland

NOVARTIS (NVS) was down CHF0.55 to CHF73.05. The company reported firm fourth quarter sales of US$10.05 billion (+16%) but appears to have missed expectations on the bottom line with net income coming in at US$1.65 billion (+23%) and operating profit coming in at US$1.82 billion (+23%).

Rocio Opazo-Aniotz, Claudia Perotti, Michael Sanderson, Emma Stevenson, Mariella Mongio, Pawan Girglani, Guarav Panchal, Julien Manrique, Isabell Witt, Sara Oscarsson, Ben Marino, John West

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