Trade talks keep European shares afloat as Sainsbury's, Swedbank sink

Reuters London | Updated on February 20, 2019 Published on February 20, 2019

Germany's trade-sensitive DAX led the way with a 0.4 per cent gain.   -  Bloomberg

Autos gain on trade talks progress

Trade talks between the world's two biggest economies helped European shares rise modestly on Wednesday, while the threat of a blocked merger sank shares in British supermarket Sainsbury's.

Germany's trade-sensitive DAX led the way with a 0.4 per cent gain and the pan-European STOXX 600 rose 0.2 per cent after US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that trade talks with China were going well.

Although autos, which are vulnerable to rising protectionism, jumped 1.3 per cent, investors remained cautious. “There's no big material news out there that will give us a sustained uptick to markets,” Gary Waite, portfolio manager at Walker Crips Investment Management, said.

The top gainers -- Glanbia, Simcorp, and German healthcare firm Fresenius -- were boosted by strong results. Fresenius shares jumped 5.9 per cent after it said it expects earnings to grow faster than sales from 2020 after investments dent profit this year.

The company's separately-listed dialysis business Fresenius Medical Care gained 6.8 per cent after announcing a 1 billion euro share buyback.

Irish nutrition company Glanbia jumped 10.7 per cent after its fourth-quarter results, while Danish software company Simcorp also rose 7.4 per cent after announcing strong results and a share buyback programme.

“Glanbias FY results confirm a strong finish to 2018 and were ahead of forecasts at the revenue, EBITA and EPS reporting lines,” said Davy Research analysts, adding they upgraded their full-year 2019 EPS forecasts by 5 per cent.

However, British supermarket chain Sainsbury's and Swedish lender Swedbank marred the positive picture overall. Sainsbury's shares sank 12.5 per cent after Britain's competition regulator said its merger with Asda should either be blocked or need significant concessions.

Swedbank shares fell 5.6 per cent after a Swedish television programme said it had uncovered documents linking the lender to a money laundering scandal involving Denmark's Danske Bank. “Whilst these headlines are unhelpful, there isn't anything so far to change our view that Baltic AML [anti money-laundering] represents a low tail-risk,” said KBW analysts.

Shares in Norwegian salmon farmers Salmar and Mowi fell 3.6 percent and 2.7 percent after antitrust regulators raided their and other salmon farms in several European Union countries in an investigation over alleged violation of rules prohibiting cartels.

Overall, analysts have been overwhelmingly negative on European earnings, downgrading their estimates consistently. “While the earnings season is OK, if you look at forward looking guidance it doesn't strike me as if there's a reason to be too bullish on markets going beyond the end of this year,” said Walker Crips' Waite.

Published on February 20, 2019
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