European benchmarks had seen a solid session a short time ahead of the close Wednesday after receiving a boost from a number of corporate earnings winners and renewed M&A activity.

The FTSE 100 gained 0.60% to 7,431 in London while the blue chip benchmark's mid-market sibling, the FTSE 250, had added 0.35% to be quoted at 19,680. In Frankfurt the DAX index rose 0.23% to 12,457 while, over in Paris, the CAC 40 gained 0.75% to 5,211. Benchmarks in Southern Europe were also higher during the session.

In individual stocks, London's Reckit Benckiser (RBGLY) led the FTSE higher throughout much of the session after it said it would sell its non-core food unit to McCormick (MKC) for $4.2 billion. The shares were just more than 1% higher during noon trading after paring some of their earlier gains. 

Aviva (AVVIY) , the FTSE 100 life insurer, saw its shares gain nearly 1% after saying it has agreed to sell the Friends Provident unit it picked up during the 2015 acquisition of Friends Life to RL360 Holdings for £340 million ($438 million).

Some of the most active shares were U.K. house builders, who have gained strongly in recent weeks as the national housing market remains subject to a historic supply shortage, which has supported home prices and ensures demand for many years to come. 

Home builder Galliford Try (GALLF) gained close to 5% after being upgraded by analysts at Liberum Capital while Barratt Developments (BTDPF) , Persimmon (PSMMF) and Taylor Wimpey (TWODF) were all seen in the top five of the FTSE 100 during late noon trading. 

Elsewhere in Europe, semicondutor firm ASML (ASML) saw its shares rise sharply after reporing an 8% increase in sals for the three months to the end of June, helping to ease concerns over the health of the semiconductor industry and the smart phone market. The stock was still up more than 6% just an hour out from the Wednesday close. 

Engie (ENGIY) , Vivendi (VIVHY) and Nokia (NOK) were among the top gainers in Paris while SAP (SAP) and BASF (BASFY) also rose notably in Franfurt.