Markets & Finance

European Indexes Pare Gains


A roundup of Friday's action on major European exchanges

LONDON

The FTSE 100 closed firmly positive, but off intra-day highs, tracking losses on Wall Street as Michigan consumer sentiment index fell more than expected. At home, support came from energy and mining stocks. WTI moved to US$126.82/bbl. However, banks were weak. ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND (-3.44%) fell on rumours of losses on options trade and that it had borrowed more than other banks from the BoE. In big ticket news, BRITISH ENERGY (+5.22%) said it has received a range of proposals for a full offer, with some higher than the closing share price on 15 May. Says it will talk with all parties. In earnings, BRITISH AIRWAYS (+4.02%) unveiled its first DPS since 2001 as it reported an in-line 44% rise in FY PTP. The airline said it was also reviewing its capacity, costs and network in times of high fuel prices and other pressures. In other news, PRUDENTIAL (+0.58%) is among the parties eyeing Equitable Life's GBP7bn with-profit fund, the FT reported. In broker action, 3I (+2.74%) gained on a Merrill target upgrade, while SAINSBURY (-1.26%) suffered a target cut at Goldman. Further, LADBROKES (+1.37%) reported a 13% rise in 4M profits. KIER GROUP (unch) lowered FY sales target, adding reservations have fallen 35%. COMPUTACENTER (-9.45%) said 1Q08 trading is difficult, but retained FY guidance. AVIS EUROPE (+10.75%) kept FY outlook as had. CHARTER (+3.28%) said FY will be ahead of expectations.

FRANKFURT

At the closing bell, Xetra-Dax (+1.07%) had come off intraday highs but nevertheless finished with firm gains. Wall Street turned lower after a positive start, due to worse-than-expected University of Michigan consumer sentiment data which reignited spending fears. Of local note, record Eurex business was driving DEUTSCHE BOERSE (+1.58%) higher. Technical analysts pointed to a technical breakout. Talk of stock building gave CONTINENTAL (+3.78%) a lift. Different sources said INFINEON's (+1.32%) CEO, Wolfgang Ziebe, stepping down at the end of the month or end-June. Christian Dior manager Claus-Dietrich Lahrs was named the new CEO of HUGO BOSS (+5.45%). DEUTSCHE BANK (+0.28%) sold US$2.5bn of five-year notes. DAIMLER's (+0.99%) US Freightliner division received an order for 2,000 delivery vans from United Parcel Service Inc. The Czech police ordered 3,500 cars from VW's (+2.62%) Skoda unit. SIEMENS (+2.29%) won a US$277m contract from the Salt Lake City-based Utah Transit Authority for 77 S70 light rail vehicles. There was talk of AXEL SPRINGER (-0.11%) being interested in UK's Trinity Mirror. HOCHTIEF (+2.01%) and KLOECKNER & CO. (+1.13%) were boosted by target hikes at Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan, respectively, while Sal Oppenheim's FV target price increase lifted BAUER (+3.6%).

PARIS

The CAC 40 (+0.41%) closed higher but off intraday highs as Wall Street turned lower after a positive start, due to a worse-than-expected Michigan consumer sentiment data. WTI was at c.US$127/bbl at European close. Goldman Sachs has upgraded its av. 2H08 forecast to US$141/bbl. In Paris, TOTAL (+2.53%) gained. SANOFI AVENTIS (+2.22%) revealed that findings from its ATHENA study showed that Multaq, a potential therapy for atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter, decreased the risk of cardiovascular hospitalisations or death from any cause by a statistically significant 24%. The construction sector benefited from news stateside: SAINT-GOBAIN (+4.21%), LAFARGE (+2.84%), SCHNEIDER (+4.55%). The latter was also added to Goldman Sachs' Conviction Buy List. MICHELIN (+2.37%) sees moderate sales growth in 2008 and reiterated op. profit guidance, reportedly. RENAULT's (+1.01%) April vehicle sales rose 8.3% to 228,246. CREDIT AGRICOLE's (-0.57%) CEO Georges Pauget reportedly told RTL radio station that he neither plans to cut jobs, nor does he see his position weakened. Also among financials, Citigroup downgraded NATIXIS (-7.56%) to sell. In the wider market, EIFFAGE (-0.60%) is looking at a purchase of Vitalia, France's No.2 private clinic operator, Les Echos reported. UBS upgraded TF1 (+6.39%) to buy. RODRIGUEZ (-8.76%) reported 1Q sales down 12% y/y.

AMSTERDAM

The AEX (+0.18%) ended higher but off intraday highs as Wall Street turned lower following a worse-than-expected Michigan consumer sentiment data. Oil price traded at c.US$126.40/bbl at European close. Goldman Sachs lifted its 2H08 forecast to US$141/bbl. ROYAL DUTCH SHELL (+2.52%) and SBM OFFSHORE (+2.66%) moved higher. In local news, TNT (+2.99%) rose further as the Dutch government delays liberalisation of the Dutch postal market beyond 1 July. This means TNT's express unit can keep its monopoly for longer. At PHILIPS' (+0.38%) medical analyst day today, the group said it expects to accelerate current sales growth to 6-8%, on an annual comparable basis in the 2009-10 timeframe for its healthcare unit. FORTIS (+0.05%) shareholders have reportedly won a courtcase to squeeze-out remaining shares of ABN Amro. In the wider market, shareholder Hermes will ask for an injunction to have ASM INTL's (+0.95%) preference shares withdrawn, after the independent ASM Intl foundation obtained an almost 30% stake in ASM INTL in support of the company's CEO and to fend of shareholder action. HEIJMANS (-5.91%) announced it has signed an 50/50 j/v deal for the development of the new Westergouwe residential district near Gouda in Holland. In broker news, ING initiated CRUCELL (-5.77%) with sell.

MILAN

Piazza Affari ended Friday's session mildly higher. Wall Street was trading in the red after worse-than-expected Michigan consumer sentiment data and record-high oil prices. Back home, the core 1Q earnings season came to an end today. BULGARI (-1.23%) disclosed a 4.6% fall in 1Q net profit due to higher costs and a sales slowdown, but confirmed its outlook for the year as long as a tough economic climate does not worsen. BANCO POPOLARE (+8.14%) unveiled 1Q net profit of EUR 260m, down 9.1% y/y, while NII rose 14% over pro forma year-earlier figures to EUR 643.5m. In M&A news, PARMALAT (-0.52%) has asked Australia's competition regulator for clearance to launch a bid for Dairy Farmers, according to Reuters. Il Sole 24 Ore writes that INDESIT (+1.51%) is a potential candidate to acquire General Electric's white goods division. UNICREDIT (-1.16%) has finally reached agreement to sell 184 of its branches for EUR 747m. Turkey's Yapi Kredi, which Unicredit controls with Koc Holding has announced that it will launch a US$736m capital increase. On a similar note, INTESA SANPAOLO (-0.58%) launched a EUR 1bn subordinated lower tier 2 eurobond targeted to international markets. Moving on, FIAT's (+2.11%) new car registrations increased 8.5% y/y in April to 115,509 cars. In broker action, Deutsche Bank downgraded CREDEM (-6.92%) to hold.


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