Markets & Finance

Europe Stocks Finish Higher


LONDON

London's FTSE 100 finished the final full trading session before the Christmas break firmly in the black (+1.39%), with Wall Street joining in merrily, lifted by strong results in the tech sector and news that Merrill Lynch would get a US$5bn injection from Singapore's SWF Temasek.

In macro data, UK November retail sales resulted in higher-than-expected gains thanks to a strong showing in on-line and food which lifted retail stocks such as HMV (+5.65%) and MORRISON (+3.38%).

Private equity investors came to the fore, as Apax and GMG said they were to acquire EMAP (+21.79%), and KKR reached an agreement on the terms of a recommended acquisition of NORTHGATE INFO SOLUTIONS (+44.31%) for approximately GBP593m.

Piggybacking on the news were other local government software companies, such as ANITE (+4.12%). MORGAN CRUCIBLE (+6.35%) bought technical ceramics businesses from Carpenter Technology for US$147m. ABERDEEN ASSET MANAGEMENT (+1.85%) acquired German property investment manager DEGI from Dresdner Bank AG for a cash consideration of EUR 110m. SPORTS DIRECT (+5.03%) announced that it sold about two thirds of its shares in Umbro to Nike. Merrill Lynch upgraded NORTHERN FOODS (+5.56%) to buy from neutral, keeping a GBP1.00 target. UBS reiterated buy on BERKELEY GROUP (+3.30%), lifting target to GBP21.72 from GBP20.12. - Robert-Jan Bartunek - S&P MarketScope, ems@sandp.com

PARIS

The CAC 40 (+1.66%) closed the session firmly higher, a tad above the 5,600 points line while Wall Street trades comfortably higher. Locally, ARCELOR MITTAL (+3.25%) received approval from the Argentine securities regulator for its cash offer to acquire all the outstanding shares in Acindar.

SAINT GOBAIN (+3.09%) is in exclusive talks to buy Famar Desi in Estonia. No financial details were disclosed. ACCOR (+2.19%) is optimistic for the start of 2008 after a strong finish to 2007, it said, adding that it could be tempted by a dollar-zone acquisition if the opportunity arose. UNIBAIL (+3.90%) agreed to buy the largest shopping centre in Austria for EUR 800m, according to the local press. CARREFOUR (+2.18%) denied it may sell its ED and Dia discount units, as Les Echos reported. CREDIT AGRICOLE (+0.87%) is to book a EUR 2.5bn pretax writedown in 2007 due to the credit crisis. SOCGEN (+0.25%) said will exercise a US$1.7bn call option to take control of Russia's Rosbank by buying a stake of around 30% from investment group Interros.

Meanwhile, NATIXIS (+2.01%) completed the transfer of CIFG Guaranty, its bond insurance unit, to controlling shareholders and will take a EUR 438m provision before taxes in 4Q. ADP (-1.75%) plans to invest EUR 2.46bn from next year through 2012 to boost capacity at Charles De Gaulle and Orly airports. - Julien Manrique - S&P MarketScope

FRANKFURT

The Dax (+1.7%) had enough pre-Christmas cheer to rise above the 8,000 level at the end of Friday's session. Whether the last two trading sessions of 2007 will be able to offer any further upside remains to be seen. Futures and options expiries likely influenced trading today but newsflow from BMW (+5.22%) clearly helped the carmaker rally to the top of the leaderboard. According Der Spiegel, BMW will cut 8,000 jobs, mainly by eliminating temporary positions.

Elsewhere, Goldman Sachs's Whitehall real-estate fund has agreed to buy 190 buildings for EUR 1.7bn from ALLIANZ (+3.12%). DEUTSCHE BANK's (+0.83%) asset management unit has agreed to acquire a 60% stake in Taiwan's Far Eastern Alliance Asset Management. Fresenius Biotech, part of FRESENIUS AG (+0.5%), has applied to the European Medicines Agency for marketing authorisation for its experimental cancer drug Removab. MAN (-0.22%) has raised its voting rights in Scania to 15.57%. INFINEON (+0.87%) has named Marco Schroeter as its new CFO. Broader market-listed SCHMACK BIOGAS (+6.71%) has signed a new framework agreement with HgCapital worth EUR 130m. HOCHTIEF's (+2.44%) majority-owned Leighton Holdings unit landed a AUD625m pipeline contract.

On the M&A front, KONTRON (+8.73%) has offered to buy Thales Computers, which has particular strength in high-end applications and is likely to see 2007 turnover exceed EUR 20m. - MS & PG - S&P MarketScope

SPAIN

Spanish shares ended Friday's session in the black as Wall Street trades higher boosted by tech shares with strong earnings coming from Research in Motion. Locally, shares in REPSOL (-0.87%) were suspended amid talk that the firm would announce the sale of part of YPF to Argentine businessman Enrique Eskenazi. PRISA's (+5.96%) chief executive, Juan Luis Cebrian, said he had no intention of negotiating the sale of SOGECABLE's (+0.18%) Digital+, at least until the offer for Sogecable is closed. Both Prisa and Sogecable received upgrades from SocGen.

The Seville port authority awarded ABERTIS (unch) the contract to extend and manage the port's logistics zone, Cinco Dias reported. FERROVIAL (+1.6%) was in focus as BAA union members voted for strike action in January. Rayet would sell 10% of ASTROC (-2.75%) if the CNMV tries to make it launch a bid for 100% of the real estate firm, Expansion reported. Overnight stays in Spanish hotels rose 7.7% y/y in November while prices rose 1.8% after a 1.7% rise in October, INE statistics showed: SOL MELIA (+0.78%). In further broker moves, Citigroup upgraded NATRACEUTICAL (+3.53%) to hold. - Emma Stevenson - S&P MarketScope

ITALY

Piazza Affari ended Friday's session higher as Wall Street trades higher boosted by solid results from Research in Motion. Back at home, ALITALIA (-2.42%) was in focus as its board was scheduled for a meeting to pick a bidder to start exclusive talks. Speculation suggested that Air France-KLM was favoured over Air One for the takeover.

ENI (+0.12%) made the headlines as the members of the consortium led by the energy group signed an interim memorandum defining the new terms for the Kasaghan oilfield. Said the MoU will be confirmed by Early 2008.

On the earnings front, FASTWEB (+0.12%) expects to break even in 2008 as core profit is set to rise 21% to EUR 530m. Sees sales increasing to EUR 1.64bn. BANCA GENERALI (+0.56%) announced that its November investment fund inflows were at EUR 10m. FIERA DI MILANO (+0.53%) approved its budget for 2008 that foresees EBITDA at EUR 28m while it expects consolidated revenues of over EUR 320m.

In other news, PININFARINA (+15.1) rallied as it announced it would set up a j/v with Bollore to develop electric cars. Parma prosecutors requested a trial for 10 executives from Citibank for their alleged role in PARMALAT's (+2.36%) bankruptcy in 2003. Italy's antitrust regulator asked UNICREDIT (+2.53%) for more information regarding the sale of its stake in MEDIOBANCA (+0.18%). - EGM - S&P MarketScope


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