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European Stocks Steady as Barclays Reports, AstraZeneca Buys Generic Line

LONDON (The Deal) -- European stock indices were little changed on Wednesday as a new round of U.S. and European Union sanctions against Russia over its suspected military backing of separatists in Ukraine coincided with a slew of corporate earnings from some of Europe's biggest companies.

The measures agreed and announced yesterday will block Russian state-owned banks' access to European capital markets and include embargos on the supply to Russia of energy equipment and of weapons.

In London the FTSE 100 was up 0.04% at 6,810.43, having earlier dipped lower. In Frankfurt the DAX was down 0.01% to 9,652.80 and in Paris the CAC 40 was down 0.06% at 4,363.00

Read More: Cheap Russian Stocks Still Not Worth Risk, TIAA-CREF's Muromcew Says

But while investors in Europe appeared nervous about the impact of the sanctions on corporate earnings, Russian investors welcomed the clarity after days of uncertainty. The Micex index of Russia's top 50 stocks was up 2.3% by early afternoon in Moscow. OAO Rosneft, the oil producer that has been affected by the sanctions, was among the significant risers.

Separately, European Commission figures showed eurozone economic confidence unexpectedly increased in July.

In London, Barclays (BCS) rose almost 4% after returning to profit in the second quarter. Transport operator National Express, bakeries chain Greggs and home builder Taylor Wimpey (TWODY) were among other London stocks to post significant gains on the back of earnings reports.

AstraZeneca (AZN - Get Report) was up about 1% after announcing a deal to buy the rights to Almirall's respiratory pipeline for $875 million plus up to $1.2 billion in performance and milestone-related payments. The deal is part of AstraZenea's plan to reverse declining sales and earnings because of the loss of patents. It said the deal will boost core earnings per share from 2016 and be neutral in 2015.

In Frankfurt, rival pharmaceuticals company Bayer (BAYRY) reversed earlier losses to rise more than 2% after second-quarter earnings fell short of analysts' forecast because of the strengthening of the euro.

In Paris, Airbus (EADSY) rose about 5% after second-quarter sales came in ahead of forecasts . The aircraft maker said it was continuing to work on options for its 46% stake in Dassault Aviation. Utility Suez Environnement also rose following an earnings bulletin.

But Total (TOT) and electrical components maker Schneider Electric slumped after releasing earnings reports that undershot expectations. Oil producer Total said it was preparing a round of cost cuts after second-quarter profit declined 12% as output shrunk. It also said it had stopped buying shares in Russian partner OAO Novatek after the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine.

Read More: Fannie and Freddie Investor Blackstone Also Sought Advisory Role

In the Netherlands, telecom Royal KPN was up almost 6% after second-quarter earnings fell less than expected, partly thanks to cost cuts.

Switzerland's Holcim, which is in the process of merging with France's Lafarge, fell well over 5% after posting declining first-half profit. Lafarge declined also.

In Tokyo the Nikkei 225 closed up 0.18% at 15,646,43. In Hong Kong the Hang Seng gained 0.37% to 24,732,21.


TheStreet Ratings team rates ASTRAZENECA PLC as a Buy with a ratings score of B-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate ASTRAZENECA PLC (AZN) a BUY. This is driven by a few notable strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, expanding profit margins and solid stock price performance. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income."

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • AZN's revenue growth has slightly outpaced the industry average of 6.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 0.9%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • The current debt-to-equity ratio, 0.48, is low and is below the industry average, implying that there has been successful management of debt levels.
  • The gross profit margin for ASTRAZENECA PLC is currently very high, coming in at 90.79%. It has increased significantly from the same period last year. Despite the strong results of the gross profit margin, AZN's net profit margin of 7.66% significantly trails the industry average.
  • Compared to its closing price of one year ago, AZN's share price has jumped by 47.41%, exceeding the performance of the broader market during that same time frame. Looking ahead, the stock's sharp rise over the last year has already helped drive it to a level which is relatively expensive compared to the rest of its industry. We feel, however, that other strengths this company displays justify these higher price levels.
  • ASTRAZENECA PLC has experienced a steep decline in earnings per share in the most recent quarter in comparison to its performance from the same quarter a year ago. The company has suffered a declining pattern of earnings per share over the past two years. However, we anticipate this trend to reverse over the coming year. During the past fiscal year, ASTRAZENECA PLC reported lower earnings of $2.04 versus $4.94 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($4.29 versus $2.04).

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