European Markets Update: U.K., Continental Stocks Trading Higher - TheStreet

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

But with U.S. Federal Reserve and European Central Bank meetings this week, gains could be capped.
Author:
Publish date:

LONDON -- In London the bids have come in thick and fast this morning, to lift the

FTSE 100

index 60.00 points to 6,328.50.

First, the French invasion: No sooner does

Saint Gobain

unveil an agreed 900 million pound ($1.5 billion) offer for

Meyer International

, the builders' merchant, than

Lafarge

launches a hostile 420p per share bid for

Blue Circle Industries

, the beloved British cement maker, valuing BCI at 3.4 billion pounds.

Meyer rose 70p to 496, not quite in line with the bid terms, and BCI gained 19p to 433 as the market anticipates a ding-dong battle. Analysts are suggesting that BCI could be worth as much as 450p per share.

Among the banks, it's make-your-minds-up time for the institutional shareholders of

National Westminster

,

(NW)

down 21p at 11.67 pounds. Most institutional investors are expected to decide early next week whether to back one of the two Scottish banks,

Royal Bank of Scotland

or

Bank of Scotland

.

Yet investors may still decide to stick with NatWest's own management, and if they take that option, either Royal Bank of Scotland or Bank of Scotland could fall prey to

Lloyds TSB

. Royal Bank of Scotland fell 7p to 995 and Bank of Scotland 4p to 616. Lloyds, additionally boosted by news of the sale of its new-business capability of

Abbey Life

to

Allied Dunbar

, the life subsidiary of

Zurich Financial Services

, is 12p higher at 635. Both Scottish banks have so far announced minimal acceptances for their offers.

Vodafone AirTouch

(VOD) - Get Report

is up 25p at 364 with turnover already at 89 million shares after reports that the U.K. mobile-phone group is willing to give

Mannesmann

(MNNSY)

, its German counterpart, almost 50% of the equity of a combined group. A deal between the two now looks a distinct possibility and Mannesmann was up 13.60 at 293.85 euros.

This comes after details Monday of Vodafone's strategic alliance with

Vivendi

(VVDIY)

. Vodafone's offer for Mannesmann closes on Monday.

The U.K. competition watchdog's statement on the grocery chains has been well received by the supermarket companies this morning, breathing life into

Tesco

, up 4p at 167.5 and

Safeway

, 7p to the good at 208.

Sainsbury

added a penny to 341, but, surprisingly, the sector's takeover favorite,

William Morrison

, is stuck in a rut at 127.5.

Tech stocks returned to favor, helped by the overnight

Nasdaq

rally.

Durlacher Group

, a technology investment firm, jumped 110p to 25.62 pounds and

Geo Interactive Media

gained 47p to 21.12 pounds.

ARM Holdings

(ARMHY)

made further good progress in the wake of Monday's excellent trading statement, with the shares up 64p at 37.5 pounds.

The continent's markets got a good bounce in early trading, as investors decided Monday's selloff might have been a bit overdone. Gains, however, were capped ahead of the meetings of the

Federal Reserve

and European Central Bank

later this week. Midday the

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt was up 91.76 at 6927.36 and the

CAC 40

in Paris was 109.30 higher at 5769.11.

Technology shares were leading gainers in Frankfurt, with both software-maker

SAP

(SAP) - Get Report

and electronics giant

Siemens

forging higher. SAP was up 19.50 at 803 euros and Siemens was up 3.69 at 142.80 euros.

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

surged, after the Finnish company reported record profits for the fourth quarter of 1999. The company's shares climbed 10 higher to 194 euros.

Freenet.de

, a subsidiary of German telco

MobilCom

, got a boost after reports that the ISP would soon be the exclusive provider of

Microsoft's

(MSFT) - Get Report

Expedia.de

travel services. Freenet.de was 2 higher at 158 euros on the

Neuer Markt

in Frankfurt.