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LONDON -- Hostile and agreed bids, hostile bids that turn into agreed bids, tie-ups and alliances: That's the new Europe.

All this helped the London market close higher, up 21.5 points, or 0.3%, at 6324.30 -- a good recovery from its morning low of 6252.

Biggest news and biggest volume was with

Vodafone AirTouch


. The



board had a meeting this afternoon, which reports say is to get the approval for a last-minute agreed merger. At time of writing, no official news out of Dusseldorf, but Vodafone said its chief, Chris Gent, was winging himself over to the German company's HQ, and that's unlikely to be for anything else but putting pen to paper. Reports say the offer of 49.5% of the combined group clinched the deal.

Vodafone ended down 17 pence, or 4.4%, at 368 1/2 on fears the new company will be removed from the Dax, profit-taking and arbitrage. "Guess the travel is better than the arrival," said one London banker. Almost a billion Vodafone shares changed hands. Mannesmann ended up 5 cents, or 0.2%, at 325.5 euros.



announced a deal with



, the Dutch information and news group, to form a new company that will offer the largest Internet protocol network to the financial services industry in the world. OK, so there is no full-blown bid, but once the stock jobbers get their heads round it, Reuters will be off to the races. Reuters rose 80p, or 8.3%, to 10.46 pounds. And there's another quid in it, market makers said.

British Telecom


steadied somewhat, down 1p, or 0.1%, at 975 after a mammoth fall yesterday on bad profit figures. Buy them, said

Lehman Brothers

-- the fall was too much.

BP Amoco


fell heavily as the

Federal Trade Commission

put a spanner in the works and stopped the bid for

Atlantic Richfield


. BP ended down 22 1/2p, or 4.1%, at 525 1/2. BP Amoco is to appeal against the decision.

Back from the grave, chemical group



finally came up trumps with a stronger-than-expected full-year profits, and jumped 50 1/2p, or 10.3%, to 539.

On the Continent it was a case of getting the bad news out of the way. The

European Central Bank

decided to raise interest rates for the second time in three months, which calmed fears of inflation and also, it is hoped, may the struggling euro a lift. (

covered the ECB move in a

story today.)

With this out of the way, investors could focus on more pressing matters, such as potential mergers and other corporate activity. The

Xetra Dax

closed up 182.31, or 2.5%, at 7354.26 and the

CAC 40

was up 202.81, or 3.4%, at 6149.67.

The main winners were telecom shares following, the Vodafone-Mannesmann deal.

France Telecom


closed up 13.90 euros, or 10.0%, at 153.40 and

Deutsche Telekom


was up 9.40 euros, or 12.7%, at 83.70.