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Europe Stocks Slip; AstraZeneca Rejects 'Final' Pfizer Offer

LONDON (The Deal) -- British drugs company AstraZeneca (AZN) on Monday rejected a revised $116 billion approach from larger rival Pfizer (PFE), which the U.S. company had said was a final offer. AstraZeneca Chairman Leif Johansson told a radio interviewer this morning he had "no idea" if his board's rejection meant the bid was now dead and said it was now up to shareholders to decide if they would accept Pfizer's cash and shares offer. But the market wasn't taking any chances. AstraZeneca shares were down 11.7% mid-morning at 42.6 pounds -  a long way off Pfizer's offer, which values the stock at 55 pounds a share.

The pharmaceuticals drama -- plus a 2.04% slump for miner Rio Tinto  (RIO) and some uncomfortable April footfall figures for the leading supermarkets -- were enough to drag down the London market. The FTSE 100 was down 0.68% at 6,810. But airlines including the British and Spanish operator International Consolidated Airlines Group and budget carrier Easyjet rose on the news that Irish budget rival Ryanair had done better than expected despite announcing its first fall in profits in five years. Ryanair was up 5.68% at 6.70 euros a share.

In Paris, French bank Societe Generale lost nearly 3% after Jerome Kerviel, the rogue trader whose unauthorized positions cost the bank about 6.7 billion euros in 2008, dramatically turned himself over to the police at the Franco-Italian border. Kerviel had walked back to France from Rome after an audience with the Pope in February. He now faces three years in prison.  

In Paris, the CAC 40 was down 0.74% at 4,423, while in Frankfurt the DAX was off 0.82% at 9,549.

Over in Asia, fears of a slowdown in the Chinese property market and a tightening of shadow banking rules even as the authorities urge the state sector to relax mortgage lending criteria, led to falls in China and Hong Kong. The Shanghai Composite Index closed down 1.05% at 2,005.18, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was off 0.04% at 22,704.5. Meanwhile the possible effects of a Chinese slowdown on iron ore consumption hit big mining companies and pushed Australia's S&P ASX 200 down 1.28% to 5,408.98. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 closed down 0.64% at 14,006.44.

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