European Markets Update: U.K., Continental Stocks Trade Higher

In the U.K., Bank of Scotland sweetens its bid for National Westminster.
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One thing to remember lately when watching the London stock market: never turn your back on it. Just as you're off getting a cup of coffee, someone like

Bank of Scotland

will pop up and doing something like upping its bid for

National Westminster Bank

(NW)

and suddenly kick-start the rest of the market.

By midmorning, the

FTSE 100

index was trotting along quite nicely with a 40.10-point gain at 6,415.70 as Bank of Scotland sweetened its bid in an attempt to woo NatWest shareholders before the Feb. 14 deadline. Bank of Scotland was down 10 pence at 650 after the news and NatWest was up 37p at 12.71 pounds.

The consensus is that NatWest shareholders should hang around. The Bank of Scotland offer is worth around 14.70 pounds per share, or 24.3 billion pounds. NatWest shares are trading substantially below the offer price because the market thinks this new bid has little or no chance of success.

What everyone wants to know is whether

Royal Bank of Scotland

will re-enter the fray. The betting is that they will. Great, there's nothing like a good old fashioned bid battle to keep the market on its toes. And remember, there are rumors that

Lloyds TSB

may take a potshot at either Bank of Scotland or Royal Bank of Scotland, whichever finishes empty-handed. Lloyds TSB was trading 17p higher at 664.

Cable & Wireless

(CWP)

is the other major company in the bid frame again today with shares up 29p at 13.49 pounds.

The story goes that

Deutsche Telekom

(DT) - Get Report

will make a move for C&W when it sells its stake in

Global One

, the loss-making international telecoms consortium of DT,

France Telecom

(FTE)

and

Sprint

and

Deutsche Telekom's

(DT) - Get Report

.

The sale would appear to be sooner rather than later. FT announced this morning that it would take complete control of the floundering joint venture from the former partners. This news pushed the shares of both former state-run monopolies higher, with FT up 5.30 at 133.20 euros and DT 1.98 higher at 72.68 euros.

In the IT sector,

Misys

fell 20p to 771p on news of a first-half profits decline of 18%. (See the related

Anglo File story.)

Europe's continental bourses powered higher straight from the opening bell mainly from action in the telecom sector, but by midday the market had trimmed these gains. The

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt was up 0.7% at 7014.41 and the

CAC 40

in Paris was up 0.9% at 5697.90.

Besides the telecom action, other news with big names attached to it had one Frankfurt-based trader noting that, "it's gotten rather busy." Poor guy.

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

first became a topic of discussion on the trading floor after it was announced that U.S. co-chairman Robert Eaton was leaving the company solely in the hands of his German counterpart Juergen Schrempp. Later on, however, interest shifted to Italian newspaper reports claiming that DaimlerChrysler and

Fiat

were in advanced merger talks.

DaimlerChrysler was up 1.89 at 68.99 euros and Fiat was 0.52 higher at 28.93 euros.