LONDON (TheDeal) -- European markets struggled for direction Wednesday. Telecom stocks grabbed the spotlight, led by Amsterdam-listed Altice (ATCEY) on a $9.1 billion deal for a majority stake in St. Louis, Mo.-based Suddenlink Communications to splash into the U.S. cable market.
In London, the FTSE hardly budged at 6,995.40, while on the mainland, the DAX was down 0.28% at 11,920.39 in Frankfurt and the CAC 40 was 0.23% lower at 5,015.47 in Paris.
In the U.K., there was some investor uncertainty following the publication of minutes from the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee meeting earlier this month. Collectively, policy makers found the level of slack in the economy currently stood at around 0.5% of GDP and likely to be absorbed "within the year." However, the report noted that there was a range of views among Committee members about the current degree of slack and how quickly it would narrow.
In Amterdam, Altice soared 7.22% as investors welcomed its bold move to enter the U.S. cable market. The Luxembourg-based buyer, which is controlled by French billionaire Patrick Drahi, announced an agreement to buy 70% of Suddenlink Communications, the seventh-largest U.S. cable operator with 1.4 million residential and 90,000 business customers.
The deal's $9.1 billion enterprise value values the target at 7.6 times synergy-adjusted EBITDA, or 7.3 times based on a tax-adjusted enterprise value, according to the buyer.
In London, Vodafone (VOD) rose 3.91% after Liberty Global chairman John Malone told Bloomberg News that a tie-up with the U.K. phone giant would be a "great fit" for his western European cable operations.
In Zurich, UBS (UBS) rose 2.93% after saying it main unit will plead guilty to fraud in the U.S. for manipulating benchmark interest rates, pay $203 million in fines under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and accept a three-year probation. It will also pay a $342 million penalty to the Federal Reserve.
In a statement, UBS chairman and group CEO Axel Weber said, "The conduct of a small number of employees was unacceptable and we have taken appropriate disciplinary actions." UBS said it's fully provisioned for the fine it will play, which will have no financial impact on upcoming second-quarter results.
As for other sectors, U.K. clothing and food retailer Marks & Spencer (MAKSY) was up 0.60% in London after announcing its first share buyback program since 2008, along with a dividend increase after it posted higher-than-expected full-year earnings.
M&S said it expects general merchandise gross margins to grow by 1.5 to 2 percentage points in fiscal 2016, albeit with modest sales growth, with clothing and home markets staying "highly competitive." Despite a weak euro and challenging macroeconomics affecting the international business especially in the first half, the retailer said it still sees a long-term brand growth opportunity in several markets.
Moving in the opposite direction, luxury trench coat and cashmere scarf maker Burberry (BURBY) slumped 4.87% in London on its prediction that annual earnings will about 40 million pounds ($62 million) lower than anticipated after reporting lower-than-expected earnings for the 12 months through March.
And in Frankfurt, Deutsche Wohnen (DWHHF) backpedalled 1.82% after the property company announced a plan to sell shares valued up to €950 million ($1.1 billion) to finance the purchase of about 6,500 residential units, mainly in Berlin.
After the close of the European trading day, all eyes will be on the U.S. when the U.S. Federal Reserve is due to release minutes of its last meeting.
Asian stocks were also mixed. The Hang Seng fell 0.39% to 27,585.05 in Hong Kong, while the Nikkei added 0.85% to 20,196.56 in Tokyo.