U.K. Shares Gain After Weekly Advance; AstraZeneca Jumps

U.K. stocks rose, after two straight weekly increases, led by a surge in AstraZeneca Plc as Pfizer Inc. confirmed its interest in taking it over.

AstraZeneca jumped 14 percent after Pfizer Inc. proposed buying it in what would be the industry’s biggest-ever takeover. Shire Plc gained 2.4 percent. Rio Tinto Group followed a gauge of basic resources companies lower.

The FTSE 100 Index advanced 14.47 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,700.16 at the close of trading in London. The benchmark index is still down 2.4 percent since reaching a 14-year high on Feb. 24 amid tension between Russia and Ukraine. The FTSE All-Share Index added 0.1 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index fell 0.9 percent.

“Today it is the various mergers and acquisitions stories that are driving the market,” Raimund Saxinger, a fund manager at Frankfurt-Trust Investment GmbH, which oversees about $22 billion, said in a phone interview. “AstraZeneca is a heavyweight in the U.K. index and it is driving the whole index higher. Also in a broader sense investors are looking at the health-care sector.”

U.K. stocks pared some gains after the Obama administration imposed sanctions on seven Russian officials and 17 companies linked to President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle over the crisis in Ukraine.

Health-care stocks climbed the most of the 19 industry groups in the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. AstraZeneca surged 14 percent to 4,666.5 pence. Pfizer offered 58.8 billion pounds ($98.7 billion) for the U.K.’s No. 2 pharmaceutical company. AstraZeneca spurned the offer as too low, and Pfizer said it’s considering its options.

Shire Rises

Shire added 2.4 percent to 3,286 pence.

GW Pharmaceuticals Plc rose 1 percent to 318 pence after earlier gaining as much as 13 percent. The biopharmaceutical company said the U.S.’s Food and Drug Administration has granted fast track designation to its Sativex treatment of pain for cancer patients, meaning that it will get greater access to the FDA to facilitate the drug’s development.

Rio Tinto, the world’s second-biggest mining company, slipped 2.8 percent to 3,185.5 pence as a gauge of commodity producers fell the most on the Stoxx 600. Glencore Xstrata Plc retreated 1.1 percent to 312.6 pence.

BP Plc lost 1 percent to 488.4 pence. OAO Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin is on the U.S. list of sanctioned Russian individuals. BP Russian Investments Ltd. owns about 19.75 percent of Rosneft’s registered capital, according to Rosneft’s website.

Sierra Rutile Ltd. slid 8.6 percent to 53 pence after saying takeover talks with companies potentially interested in the rutile producer had come to an end.

The volume of FTSE 100 shares changing hands today was 27 percent below the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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