U.K. Stocks Climb as M&A Activity Spur AstraZeneca, Glaxo

U.K. stocks rose, completing the biggest three-day jump this year, as AstraZeneca Plc and GlaxoSmithKline Plc pushed the FTSE 100 Index higher after the nation’s markets reopened following the Easter holiday.

AstraZeneca rallied the most since August 2011 after reports that Pfizer Inc. discussed acquiring the London drugmaker in informal, now-discontinued talks. Glaxo gained 5.2 percent after Novartis AG agreed to buy its cancer-drug business for as much as $16 billion. Colt Group SA plunged 10 percent after saying annual earnings will miss estimates.

The FTSE 100 rose 56.51 points, or 0.9 percent, to 6,681.76 at the close of trading in London. The gauge climbed 2.1 percent in the past three days. The FTSE All-Share Index added 0.9 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index advanced 1.4 percent.

Many health-care companies are focusing on growth, said Dan Mahony, who helps manage about $12 billion at Polar Capital Holdings Plc, including Glaxo and AstraZeneca shares. “Money is cheap right now and as the economy improves, it probably won’t be very cheap for that much longer. That might also be the catalyst here, and that’s why companies are bringing assets to the table now,” he said.

AstraZeneca jumped 4.7 percent to 3,960 pence. Pfizer and AstraZeneca aren’t currently negotiating, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News. One said the talks happened several months ago and there are no plans to resume.

Glaxo Climbs

Glaxo gained 5.2 percent, the most since June 2009, to 1,640 pence. Novartis also said it will form a consumer-health venture with Glaxo and sell its vaccines business, excluding the flu operations, to the U.K. company for $7.1 billion.

A gauge of health-care companies posted the best performance on the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Shire Plc, a maker of drugs for rare diseases, rallied 7.6 percent, the most since October, to 3,146 pence.

Royal Mail Plc gained 2.6 percent to 522 pence. Bank of America Corp. Merrill Lynch raised its rating on the company to buy from neutral, saying the stock has the potential to gain 26 percent, backed by strong cash generation.

Colt sank 10 percent, the most since July 2011, to 130 pence. The provider of network and data services said full-year earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization will be between 5 percent and 10 percent lower than the estimated 325 million euros ($449 million). Restructuring charges will be about 30 million euros in the second half of the year, the company said.

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