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M&A rumors send Eurofirst higher

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by Elaine Frei

News and rumors involving bids activity lifted the FTSE Eurofirst 300 by 1.9 percent on Monday to 1,314.30, almost 7 percent higher than its low for the year, reached in June.

The forestry and paper sector was helped by Oji Paper’s move to acquire Hokuetsu Paper Mills, as investors looked for signs of similar consolidation within the sector in Europe. UPM Kymmene gained 1.7 percent to €17.60, while Stora Enso added 2.2 percent to €11.73 and SCA was up 3.4 percent to SKr316.

In the telecommunications sector, France Telecom added 2.1 percent to €16.75 on the announcement that it would sell its stake, totaling 54 percent, in directories publisher PagesJaunes to a US private equity house. Shares in PagesJaunes gained 0.1 percent to €22.06.

Phillips Electronics was up 6.6 percent to €25.15 amid speculation that three separate private equity groups would bind for its semiconductors unit. ABN Amro repeated its “buy” rating on Phillips as well as reconfirming its target share price of €28.40.

Rumors of a merger between Italian utilities ASM Brescia and AEM Milano resulted in gains of 3.4 percent to €2.99 and 1.7 percent to €1.93 respectively. The chairmen of both companies confirmed that they were ready to engage in talks.

In the automobile manufacturing sector, Peugeot overcame early losses to end the day up 0.1 percent to €45.30 even though Faurecia, the parts maker in which Peugeot owns a 71 percent, said it saw operating margins go down in the first half. Faurecia fell 7.6 percent to €41.39. Fiat added 1.1 percent to €10.71 on the news that it would enter into a consumer financing venture with Credit Agricole.

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News posted: July 24, 2006

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