LONDON ( The Deal) -- European stocks rose Thursday, as positive news from companies including Merck KGaA  (MKGAY) and Alstom  (ALSMY) led benchmark indices back into positive territory. 

In Frankfurt, the DAX advanced 0.86% to 9,290.22, while in France the CAC 40 climbed 0.69% to 4,208.59. In London, the FTSE 100 rose 0.31% to 6,631.38.

Merck was up 2.41% in Frankfurt after the Darmstadt-based chemical and pharmaceutical maker raised its full-year sales forecast. It's now counting on sales of 11 billion euros ($13.7 billion) to 11.2 billion euros, compared to a previous forecast of 10.9 billion euros to 11.1 billion euros. 

In Paris, Alstom rose 2.86% as investors welcomed the company's plans to return 3.5 billion euros to 4 billion euros in cash through a share buyback. 

On Dec. 19, Alstom shareholders are due vote on the sale of energy assets to General Electric (GE) . Alstom's board is proposing that the company keep two-thirds of the 12.35 billion euros to be received from GE to boost its balance sheet and trim debt. Once shareholders give the green light, the deal will still have to be approved by regulators in several jurisdictions, Alstom said. 

In London, software engineering firm Aveva Group  (AVEVF)  gained 1.98% to 1,5430 pence on a ratings upgrade from analysts at Barclays. 

Several financial stocks were also up across the continent. 

ING (ING)  advanced 1.45%in Amsterdam after the financial group said it would sell reduce its stake in New York-based Voya Financial, formerly ING's U.S. insurance unit, from 32.5% to about 19.5% through a share sale. ING will sell 34.5 million shares in Voya Financial for an undisclosed price, and through a separate agreement ING will sell $175 million worth of shares to Voya. 

In Milan, Monte dei Paschi di Siena gained 3.94%, aring Wednesday's 6.5% drop ahead of its third-quarter results released after the close of trading. Its net loss widened to 796.7 million euros from 138.6 million euros a year earlier. 

In London, investors didn't seem bothered by SABMiller's  (SBMRY) prediction of "challenging" trading conditions after posting lower-than-expected first-half earnings. The stock was up 1.65%. 

Among decliners, Aegon  (AEG) tumbled 6.28%  in Amsterdam after the Dutch insurer posted lower-than-expected third-quarter net income, which it attributed to changes to its assumptions and updates to its actuarial models.

Asian indices were mainly higher. In Tokyo, the Nikkei added 1.14% to 17,393, while in Hong Kong the Hang Seng advanced 0.34% to 24,019.94.

 

 

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