Europe midday: Carrefour merger chat helps stocks tread water
European shares were struggling to find direction at lunch on Wednesday, with merger news involving French supermarket giant Carrefour countering negative sentiment around tightening Covid restrictions on the Continent.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 index was marginally higher, with major bourses muted. Germany’s DAX was slightly lower as the government said it would not be able to lift all coronavirus restrictions at the start of February as planned.
Investors were also eyeing US President-elect Joe Biden plans for a stimulus package ahead of his inauguration next week.
In equity news, Danish wind farm developer Oersted slumped 7.9% on warning a return to more normal wind speeds this year would hit operating earnings.
Carrefour was the top gainer, up more than 14% as Canadian convenience-store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard said it had approached Europe’s biggest retailer to discuss a merger. Shares in rival French supermarket Casino rose on the news.
Shares in Spanish telecom company Telefonica rose 9.3% after it agreed to sell its mobile phone masts in Europe and Latin America to US-based telecom infrastructure operator American Towers for €7.7bn in cash.
Howden Joinery shares rose as the company lifted profits guidance after a better-than-expected performance in the final weeks of the year as locked down Britons spent more time improving their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
Shares in online fast food ordering service Just Eat Takeway fell on a poor margins outlook, despite reporting revenue rising by more than half in 2020 after UK delivery orders jumped almost fivefold in the fourth quarter.
Persimmon shares were down 5% after the company said lockdown restrictions contributed to a fall in new house sales.