Markets & Finance

European Indexes Close Mixed


Most continental indexes were outperforming a flat Wall Street at the close

From Standard & Poor's European MarketScope

European indexes closed mixed Monday. Wall Street was in the red as the latest data sparked concerns over the state of the US economy. Crude prices stalled as a two-week rally ran out of steam. Softer crude price at US$65.53/bbl took down energy shares.

UK: The FTSE 100 closed flat as strength in Vodafone (VOD) (+0.74%) and telecom stocks offset weaker-than-expected ISM data. Also, UK manufacturing growth slowed in March. Sector-wise, telecoms got a boost after Italy's Pirelli disclosed that it was in exclusive talks with AT&T (T) and America Movil over the sale of its controlling stake in Telecom Italia (TI).

BT (BT) (+1.81%) rang up gains. Vodafone was up on positive broker views after Friday's sell-off. Credit information firm Experian (+4.61%) gained after US credit card and payment processor First Data (FDC) agreed to be taken over by KKR.

In company news, Northern Rock (-0.96%) said first quarter 2007 trading was strong and in line with previous guidance. Carphone Warehouse (-1.08%) said fiscal results would be in line with expectations. From the Press: German group Celesio has contacted several private equity groups in an attempt to form a rival consortium to bid for Alliance Boots (+0.49%), to The Sunday Times reported.

France: The CAC 40 index (+0.20%) closed modestly higher. Of local note, France Telecom (FTE) (+1.87%) was the biggest index points gainer as Pirelli entered into exclusive talks with AT&T and America Movil over the planned sale of its controlling stake in Telecom Italia.

Arcelor Mittal (+0.30%) has launched a share buy-back program up to €443 million. Also, there was the suggestion that Arcelor Mittal may encounter problems gaining finance when attempting to acquire Posco and may consider Vallourec (+2.04%). Accor (+1.90%) climbed after it was revealed that Colony Capital has taken a 5.7% holding in the hotelier after exchanging bonds for stock. Veolia (VE) (+1.22%) remained interested in Suez (SZE) (+0.43%) non-domestic water and waste activities, La Tribune reported.

At the negative end, financials weighed heavy: SocGen (-0.87%), AXA (AXA) (-0.19%) and BNP Paribas (-0.27%) capped gains, erasing more than 4 points. Renault (-0.26%) announced March 2007 sales in France down 15% year-over-year. Elsewhere, Devoteam (+3.13%) acquired auSystem's main subsidiaries outside Sweden and now targets €360 million sales and 32% operating margin for 2007. In broker action, Alstom (+1.19%) was added to Cheuvreux's Selected List.

Germany: After a small mid-afternoon dip into the red, the Dax index regained some of its earlier form to move back into the black at the end of trading. Telcos were boosted by consolidation news: Deutsche Telekom (DT) (+2.34%) was strong. E.On (EON) (+0.31%) lost its first legal attempt to ban a potential joint bid on Endesa from Acciona and Enel (EN) earlier.

DCX (DCX) (+1.3%) made further gains after bids for Chrysler were expected from Cerberus and at least two other potential buyers, according to the WSJ. Die Welt am Sonntag wrote that the carmaker could receive between US$6 billion and US$9 billion from the sale of the unit.

Allianz (AZ) (+0.81%) was bidding for PTE Skarbiec Emerytura, a pension fund put up for sale by BRE Banks, the Polish unit of Commerzbank (-0.03%). According to the Sunday Times, Celesio (-0.74%) contacted several private equity groups through its long-standing financial adviser NM Rothschild in an attempt to form a rival bidding consortium for UK's Alliance Boots.

Key on the broker front, Credit Suisse raised its target on Singulus (+2.35%). Vossloh (-2.00%) was marked lower after a downgrade to hold at Deutsche.

Elsewhere:The IBEX 35 index (+0.61%) closed firmly on positive ground, shrugging off mixed US trading.

In Zurich, the SMI index (-0.23%) stuck out like a sore thumb among the European benchmark equity indexes at the end of trading, closing 0.23% lower while almost everywhere else was higher.

Claudia Perotti, Lydia Carroll, Sara Oscarsson, Isabell Witt, Michael Sanderson, Gaurav Panchal, Julien Manrique, John West, Ben Marino, Emma Stevenson, Pawan Girglani.

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