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The Deal: European Stocks Trade Mostly Higher

LONDON (The Deal) -- Weakness in Asia overnight and worsening tensions in Ukraine seemed to herald a miserable day on the European markets. But after a gloomy start, most had picked up by mid-morning, in part of good economic news and in part on individual company announcements.

It would be an exaggeration to say the markets went bananas on the news that U.S. banana group Chiquita  (CQB) and its Irish rival Fyffes  announced an all-share merger to create a company with a market capitalization of $1.07 billion. Fyffes is listed on London's small-to-medium sized stocks market AIM and its Irish equivalent the ESM growth stocks market. Fyffes soared over 22% by mid-morning to 92 pence a share and certainly contributed to the better than expected mood on London.

U.K. engine maker Rolls-Royce topped the leader-board for London's FTSE 100 with a rise of 2.83% to  1,055 pence as investors caught up with the announcement, after the markets closed on Friday, that German auto-maker Daimler has agreed to sell Rolls-Royce its 50% share in their diesel engine joint venture Rolls-Royce Power Systems. The fair value of the deal has yet to be determined. But one indication would be that the British company held the stake at $3.1 billion on its books at the end of 2013.

Meanwhile in France, mobile telephony operator Iliad announced exclusive talks to buy the mobile unit and accompanying spectrum from its rival Bouygues Telecom for up to 1.8 billion euros ($2.5 billion), if Bouygues succeeds in its bid for another mobile business, Vivendi's SFR, cutting the field from four to three major players. The largest player, Orange, bounced 3.5% on the news.

Also buoying the French market were good manufacturing industry figures for January, up 0.7% on the month before and a Bank of France confirmation that it expects 0.2% GDP growth for the first quarter.

London's FTSE 100 was up 0.45% at 6,743, in Paris, the CAC 40 was up 0.77% at 4,400 and Frankfurt's DAX, which had risen briefly mid-morning, was back in negative territory again, down 0.11% at 9,340.

Meanwhile in India, the markets continued their pre-election rally, on the hope of a stronger more business friendly central government winning the month-long polls scheduled for April and May. But in East Asia, disappointing Chinese export statistics had a numbing effect both in mainland China and closely linked markets from Hong Kong to Australia. The Shanghai composite Index was down 2.9% to dip below 2000 at 1,999. Sydney's ASX 200 index was down 0.93% at 5,411.

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