Eurofirst lower on mixed results

In Europe on Thursday the equities markets fell, with the FTSE Eurofirst 300 declining by 0.2 percent to 1,355.46. Banking and retail were up on the day, but utilities were mixed and foods were down.

Among bankers DnB Nor, Norwaya��s largest bank, was up 0.9 percent to NKr81.50 after a strong performance in its brokerages led to a 28 percent leap in pre-tax profits in the fourth quarter.

German retailer Metro was up 4 percent to a��43.90 on reports that German business confidence was at a 14-year high. Elsewhere in the retail sector, Francea��s Carrefour turned a comment by Deutsche Bank that its stock was undervalued into a gain of 3.1 percent to a��40.86.

In the utilities sector, bid rumours continued but not to the huge benefit of companies in the sector as earlier in the week. Gas Natural was up 2.6 percent to a��24.90 when Spanish construction company FCC said it would think about joining in a bid for Endsea. While Gas Natural gained on the talk, FCC dropped 0.4 percent to a��57.10 and Endsea declined by 0.7 percent to a��28.06. French utility Suez, gained 7 percent early in the day on rumors that it might be a takeover target by Enel, but by the end of the day Suez was only up 0.3 percent to a��32. Elsewhere in the sector, EDF was up 1.5 percent to a��42.47 on an announcement that its net profits had doubled, while RWE dropped 2.7 percent to a��72.60 after issuing a statement saying that operating profits in 2006 would likely only grow by 5 to 10 percent.

Nestle was down by 3.3 percent to SFr386.50 despite a report of net profits in line with expectations and up 20.7 percent from 2004s figures. One analysts said that the profits report showed Nestlea��s strength and that share prices do not reflect that strength, while Nestlea��s chief executive put down reports that the company could be interested in bidding for Danone or Numico. Numico, meanwhile, dropped 1.7 percent to a��37.13 as it announced disappointing results on fourth quarter sales, especially in baby food.

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