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March 24, 2006    

Eurofirst gains on pharma, telecoms

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by Elaine Frei

In Europe on Friday, the FTSE Eurofirst 300 was up 0.5 percent to 1,383.19. The day’s gain helped the Eurofirst to add 1 percent on the week.

In the pharmaceuticals sector, Schering was up 4.6 percent on the week to €86.30 on an offer from Bayer that was higher than an earlier bid from Merck, which withdrew its bid on the grounds that it could not justify upping its offer. Even though WestLB issued a downgrade on Bayer from “add” to “hold” because it considered the possible deal “ambitious”, Bayer still added 6.8 percent on the week to €35.42. Merck, meanwhile, gained 1.4 percent to €80.99 on a reiteration of WestLB’s “buy” recommendation. Elsewhere in the sector, Sanofi-Aventis was up by 5.2 percent to €77.45 on news that a patent dispute had been settled.

In the automobile manufacturing sector, Volkswagen gained 6.7 percent to €62.13, while Fiat was up 7.6 percent to €10.01. BMW added 8.8 percent to €46.01 on indications that it will do well this year.

French telecom equipment maker Alcatel gained 1.6 percent to €13.05 on Friday, a two-year high, bringing its advance for the week to 8.9 percent. The gains came on news that it had re-entered merger talks with US company Lucent Technologies. Rumors that a merger would prompt Alcatel to sell its 9.5 percent stake in defense group Thales. This sent shares in Thales up 4.5 percent on Friday, to €37.65.

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