European Indexes End Lower
Major European indexes recouped some of the morning's losses before the close Wednesday. US indexes trimmed gains after US oil inventories data sent WTI back towards US$69/bbl. They had been trading in fine fettle after the US trade gap shrank to US$65.7 billion in February from January's record US$68.6 billion.
UK: The FTSE 100 ended Wednesday's session just below the gain line, supported by index heavyweight Vodafone (VOD)(+0.61%) on news that it has sold its 45% stake in joint venture Verizon Wireless for US$50 billion to its US partner Verizon (VZ). But miners - BHP Billiton (BHP)(-1.86%) and Antofagasta (-2.54%) - weighed on the blue-chip index on softening commodity prices after a record rise Tuesday.
The news of Nasdaq's 'dawn raid' on the LSE (+15.41%) coupled with speculation that the US exchange, which is now the largest LSE shareholder with a close to 15% stake, may make a full bid sent shares rocketing. Scottish Widows also sold 2.7 million shares to Nasdaq for £11.75/share, cutting its stake to 4.3%.
Meanwhile, GUS (-3.06%) fell after it cautioned on its UK retail outlook and said Homebase profits would be hit. WH Smith (+5.28%) said it intends to separate its news distribution and retail businesses. SAB Miller (+3.97%) posted 5% growth in lager volumes for 12 months to end-March. Burberry (+2.85%) reported retail sales up 13%. Laura Ashley (+13.43%) jumped on fiscal year profits, while Austin Reed (+8.84%) turned profitable in fiscal 2005. VT Group (-0.74%) set its sights on a Oman navy deal worth £400 million. Hammerson (-2.45%) traded ex-dividend.
Germany:The Xetra-Dax (-0.12%) ended Wednesday's session a touch lower. Stock-specific, Deutsche Boerse (+1.5%) was pushed higher on takeover speculation following Nasdaq's move. DaimlerChrysler (DCX)(+0.25%) said it will keep at least a 15% stake in EADS, and reiterated that it expects improved profitability this year.
Schering (SHR)(+0.23%) edged higher as the FTD reported that several hedge funds have bought shares to speculate on a higher price than the €86.00 per share Bayer (BAY)(-0.42%) has offered. Citigroup (C) placed 800,000 Allianz (AZ)(-0.41%) shares Tuesday, worth about €105 million.
Private equity group Terra Firma has joined forces with former United Utilities (UU) CEO John Roberts to work on its planned bid for RWE's (+1.07%) unit Thames Water, which may be sold for more than £6.94 billion, according to the FT. BASF (BF)(-0.25%) plans to challenge other producers of genetically modified crops starting next year with the introduction of high-starch potatoes. Premiere (+1.49%) has won the rights to broadcast Formula One until the end of 2007. Key on the broker front, a number of brokers lifted their target on Adidas (-2.33%) amid more confidence about Reebok.
France:The CAC 40 closed 27 points in the red, but off its lows. In France, more than three quarters of stocks traded in the red. Suez (SZE)(-2.15%) was a laggard; the company unveiled plans to issue free share warrants in the case of a takeover bid, as a poison pill defense.
Techs underperformed for the second day running. Bouygues (-0.55%) trimmed losses of more than 3% by reaffirming its commitment to its telecom unit. This came after a French paper reported that Bouygues thought the low market share of the telecom business was insufficient to guarantee its long-term future.
Euronext (+1.74%) shares rose after Nasdaq acquires a stake in the London Stock Exchange, paving the way for merger talks. CDC's real estate spin-off Icade closed 18% above its IPO price of €27.9. Carrefour (-0.60%) reported first quarter sales after the close.
Elsewhere: The SMI ended the session lower - below the 8,000 mark - as heavyweight pharmas and Nestle pulled the index down.
Stockholm apart, Nordic bourses ended Wednesday's session broadly lower.