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Eurofirst up on utilities bids

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by Elaine Frei

European equities markets were up on Tuesday, mainly on gains in the energy sector spurred on by a bidding war for Spain’s Endsea.

The FTSE Eurofirst 300 was up 0.7 percent to 1,355.05. In Frankfurt, the Xetra Dax fained 0.7 percent as well, to 5,836.56, while in Paris the CAC 40 was up to 5,013.78.

Eon, Germany’s largest energy firm, has launched a counter bid for Endsea, which has already received an offer from Gas Natural, another Spanish company. Because Eon’s bid is nearly three times Gas Natural’s market value, it isn’t considered likely that Gas Natural will improve its bid. However, Gas Natural is expected by some analysts to instead bid for Iberdrola.

Eon was trading up 2.9 percent to €96.10 after an initial decline. Endsea was up 9.4 percent to €27.87, while Iberdrola gained 6.7 percent to €27.05 and Gas Natural was up 0.9 percent to €24.56. Other European utilities also benefited from the speculation. Suez was up 3.3 percent to €30.66, Energias de Portugal gained 3.5 percent to €2.94, RWE rose 3.6 percent to €72.80, and Veolia Environment advanced by 3.9 percent to €44.00.

In other sectors, brewer Carlsberg was down 3.4 percent to DKr369 despite reporting a full-year operating profit up 3.4 percent from 2004, well below the 7.3 percent increase that had been expected.

Swedish bank Svenska Handelsbanken, however, reported higher than predicted operating profits for the full year, sending its shares up 4.4 percent to SKr201.

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News posted: February 21, 2006

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