European stocks boosted but merger hopes fail to lift ISEQ
IRISH stocks were unchanged yesterday, with the benchmark ISEQ closing down just a third of a point on a busy day for many listed companies. Ireland was the only country in western Europe where shares didn't gain amid optimism that mergers and acquisitions are on the increase.
Glanbia fell 2.7pc to €2.53 after profits and sales declined and the company surprised shareholders with plans to sell its Irish operations to the Glanbia Co-operative Society -- the company's biggest shareholder.
Tullow Oil, which also published earnings for 2009, slid 2.4pc to €13.95 after pretax profit slumped 93pc last year.
Another heavyweight to decline was clinical testing company Icon, which fell 2.9pc to €17.47 after founder John Climax sold 1.1 million ADRs.
Another company which saw a major shareholder sell shares was building materials company Kingspan, where Brendan Murtagh offloaded most of his stake in the company for around €25m. Shares in Kingspan soared 4.2pc to €5.87.
Financial services adviser IFG rose 1.5pc to €1.37 after it got the green light to buy UK rival James Hay.
European stocks rose, sending the Stoxx Europe 600 Index to a seven-week high, amid speculation that mergers and acquisitions would increase and optimism that Greece's financial crisis would be contained.
ICAP, the world's largest broker of transactions between banks, jumped to a one-month high after rival Tullett Prebon said it was in takeover talks.
Barratt Developments rallied on speculation the builder may also be a bid target. Alpha Bank led Greek stocks higher as former European Commission President Romano Prodi said the worst of the nation's budget crisis was over.
"I expect to see an increase in M&A as companies are now in a better position to actually do the deals," said Kevin Lilley, who helps oversee about $2bn at Royal London Asset Management. "Prices are quite a bit less from the peak. It's the right time to be doing it and companies can get access to capital."
Investor confidence improved this month in eight of the 10 nations tracked by the Bloomberg Professional Confidence Survey on growing signs that the budget crisis in Greece won't derail the global economy.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said after a meeting at the White House yesterday that US President Barack Obama expressed support for the measures he was taking.
Fortis climbed 3.1pc to €2.80 after the owner of Belgium's biggest life insurer reported full-year net income of €1.19bn, beating estimates. The company said it would resume dividend payouts less than a year after emerging from its break-up.
Inchcape slid 4.3pc for the biggest decline in the Stoxx 600. The operator of car dealerships said "difficult" trading conditions would continue until "well into the second half of 2010".