M&A dominates Europe share trading as oil leads gains

By Helen Reid

LONDON, Dec 12 : Mergers and acquisitions dominated early European share trading on Tuesday, while a decline in banks was offset by strength in oil stocks after a pipeline shutdown boosted crude prices.

The pan-European STOXX 600 gained 0.2 percent and leading euro zone stocks rose 0.1 percent.

Amsterdam’s AEX climbed 0.4 percent, pushed higher by Gemalto which rocketed 33 percent after French tech consultancy Atos’s 4.3 billion euro takeover offer.

The Dutch cybersecurity company, whose shares were dented by four profit warnings in a year, helped the tech sector outperform. Gemalto’s shares were last trading at 45 euros – just below the bid price.

Gemalto’s board has until Friday to review the unsolicited bid, which Atos hopes will boost its digital security credentials. Atos shares rose 5 percent to the top of the CAC 40.

In other deal-driven moves, French commercial real estate company Unibail-Rodamco fell 3.5 percent after it offered to buy shopping mall owner Westfield Corp for $16 billion.

“Year ends with M&A boom on French market,” wrote Kepler Cheuvreux analysts.

“While the acquisition of Gemalto is not the straightforward one we expected, Atos’s management has a strong track record for turning around companies,” they added.

Unibail’s acquisition of Westfield would help it “finally” get U.S. and UK exposure, Kepler said.

Strong oil stocks limited losses after Brent crude jumped to over $65 overnight as an outage in the Forties North Sea pipeline sucked supply out of the market.

The oil and gas sector, which has been the worst-performing this year, jumped 0.6 percent, the biggest boost to overall gains.

Financials pulled back after a strong rally driven by expectations for a Fed interest rate rise. HSBC, Societe Generale and BNP Paribas were the biggest fallers.

Dialog Semiconductor rose 5.2 percent, with one trader pointing to a report the company’s chips were to be used in Huawei’s Mate 10 Android smartphones.

Dialog’s shares have plummeted this year due to concerns over its reliance on top customer Apple, which could in-source its power chip production.

“The power chip in Huawei is a fast charging solution, and it’s a new play for (Dialog) as far as a new customer,” said Lee Simpson, analyst at Stifel.

“But it’s a difficult story to fully embrace given your 75 percent customer is leaving the building,” he added. Stifel downgraded Dialog to “hold” from “buy” earlier on Tuesday.

Genmab was the worst-performing stock, down 6.2 percent after it flagged 2018 expense growth of 40 to 50 percent due to pipeline investments.

South African retailer Steinhoff meanwhile jumped 37 percent, which still left its shares at around a quarter of their price before accounting irregularities emerged.

PostNL gained 3.8 percent after JP Morgan upgraded the stock to “overweight”, saying it offered attractive dividend prospects.


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