European Stocks Rebound Amid M&A, Earnings Headlines

LONDON (The Deal) -- European stocks rebounded on Thursday amid mergers and acquisitions excitement and rash of first-quarter trading bulletins, while Asian indices were mixed after disappointing U.S. housing data.

In London, the FTSE 100 was up 0.59% at 6,714.11. The DAX in Frankfurt climbed 0.68% to 9,609.36 and in Paris, the CAC 40 increased 0.82% to 4,487.47.

In Germany, the closely watched Ifo index of business confidence unexpectedly rose in April.

Shares in French engineering company Alstom SA posted gains well into the double digits after a Bloomberg report of a potential takeover agreement with General Electric (GE). Alstom issued a carefully worded statement which didn't deny that talks were taking place, saying it "is not informed of any potential public tender offer for the shares of the company" and that it constantly reviews its strategic options. Shares in Bouygues SA, the conglomerate that owns a 29% Alstom stake, were up 5%. Bloomberg said that Bouygues supported the Alstom bid.

In Vienna, Telekom Austria AG was up almost 7% after Carlos Slim's America Movil SAB de CV forged a shareholder pact with the Austrian government, triggering a 1.4 billion euros ($2 billion) bid for the outstanding shares.

Among the many companies to post quarterly earnings bulletins was Anglo-Swedish drugsmaker AstraZeneca (AZN), which last weekend was the rumored and apparently abortive target of a $100 billion bid from Pfizer (PFE).

AstraZeneca first-quarter revenue was little changed at $6.4 billion, with lost patents hampering revenue growth, while operating profit slid 40%, because of investment in new drugs. It made no mention of Pfizer's bid interest.

Its shares were up almost 3%, even though profit missed forecasts, as investors continued to bet that it will attract further bid interest.

Other companies whose shares rose after reporting first-quarter result included French oilfield services company Technip SA, which was up almost 7% after first-quarter net profit declined less than expected, and French electrical components maker Schneider SA, which posted strong first-quarter revenue growth in China and other emerging markets.

Staying in France, Air Liquide SA also rose on the back of a 6.2% increase in first-quarter sales as it pronounced a "return to a more favorable economic climate."

In the food and consumer goods sector, Anglo-Dutch Unilever (UL) declined after the impact of currency movements pushed first-quarter sales down 6.3% to 11.4 billion euros, though underlying sales growth was 3.6%.

And Dutch brewer Heineken also fell after posting a 2.6% decline in first-quarter sales to just over 4 billion euros, though the revenue picture was better than expected, with sales up 3.4% on what the company calls an "organic basis."

In Hong Kong the Hang Seng closed up 0.24% at 22,562.80, bucking a negative trend on mainland Chinese markets and most other Asian exchanges after an unexpected decline in March new home sales in the U.S, as measured by the Commerce Department.

In Tokyo the Nikkei 225 fell 0.97% to 14,404.99.

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