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European equities gain on brewers


by Elaine Frei
February 22, 2006

European equities markets were up on Wednesday, helped significantly by good news in the breweries sector. The FTSE Eurofirst 300 gained 0.3 percent to 1,353.84, while Frankfurt’s Xetra Dax was up 0.5 percent to 5,828.65 and France’s CAC 40 was up 0.6 percent to 5,022.35.

Utilities, which were up on Tuesday over bid rumors, saw declines as German utility Eon’s bid for Spain’s Endsea has already come in for criticism from the Spanish government and analysts say that regulators will examine the deal carefully before approving it. Endsea was down 0.2 percent to €27.49 and Eon dropped 0.1 percent to €95.62.

Other losses on the day included chemical group BASF, down 0.1 percent to €62.94 after disclosing that its fourth-quarter earnings were lower than had been expected. Also, in the auto sector, DaimlerChrysler dropped 1.5 percent to €46.56 on a downgrade from “outperform” to “neutral” from Credit Suisse. Irish telecommunications company Eircom was also down on the day on confirmation that Australian investment company Babcock & Brown Capital has approached Eircom about a takeover bid. Eircom dropped 0.6 percent to €2.19.

The breweries had a much better day of it. Heineken gained 3.8 percent on the day to €30.67 after it reported that its full-year profits were up 18.5 percent to €761 million on a 5.3 percent rise in the volume of beer sales. Meanwhile, Dutch brewer Grolsch gained 17.4 percent to €28.0 after it signed a US distribution agreement with Anheuser-Busch, a move which gained Grolsch an upgrade to “buy” from Rabo Bank.

Also seeing a gain on the day was cement company Holcim, the world’s largest. Holcim saw its share rise by 3.2 percent to SFr102.30 when UBS raised its target price from SFr107 to SFr123 and repeated its “buy” recommendation due to what it called the company’s growth potential in emerging markets and a positive outlook in US markets.



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