Cement merger talks spark solid trading

European stocks rise, with Ireland’s CRH boosted by possible Holcim and Lafarge deal

European stocks rose to a six-year high as Holcim and Lafarge, the world's biggest and second-biggest cement-makers, said they were in advanced merger discussions, while a US report showed that its economy created more jobs in February than initially estimated.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index added 0.5 per cent to 338.97, its highest level since January 2008. The benchmark has advanced 4.5 per cent since March 24th as improving economic data signalled that the US economy is recovering from the harsh winter.

News that Swiss cement company Holcim and its French rival Lafarge are in talks to merge lifted the share price of the Iseq's largest stock, building materials group CRH , which closed up 3.8 per cent at €21.40 on its Dublin listing. It also climbed 4 per cent in London.

The Iseq advanced 1 per cent overall on a relatively busy day for the Dublin market. Aer Lingus announced March traffic statistics that were in line with expectations. Most airlines' performances for the month have been adversely affected by the timing of Easter, which fell in March last year, but moved to late April in 2014. Its stock closed flat at €1.68.

Green REIT fell 1.2 per cent to €1.17, having announced a €400 million placing of stock at a price of €1.12. Further details of the capital-raise will be published in a prospectus on Monday. Ormonde Mining fell 1.7 per cent to 6 cent. The resources company, which is also listed in London, completed a share placing at a price of 4 pence, raising £2 million.

The FTSE 100 rose 0.7 per cent, extending its third consecutive weekly gain, as the index of blue-chip shares was boosted by the US government's upward revision on job estimates.


EasyJet rose 2 per cent to 1,827 pence to its highest price since its initial public offering in November 2000, after it said it flew 5.1 million passengers in March, up from 4.9 million a year earlier. International Consolidated Airlines Group , the British Airways parent, added 1.5 per cent to 442.9 pence.

Man Group increased 4.7 per cent to 106.7 pence as the hedge-fund manager bought back some of its shares and analysts at HSBC Holdings upgraded the stock to overweight, from underweight. Pearson climbed 2.5 per cent to 1,033 pence after Jefferies Group recommended buying shares in the textbook publisher, citing signs of a pick-up in US education spending.

Tesco fell to its lowest price since November 2008 after saying its chief financial officer, Laurie McIlwee, would step down. The supermarket chain's shares finished down 1.5 per cent at 287.4 pence.

National benchmark indexes rose in 14 of the 18 western-European markets. France's CAC 40 added 0.7 per cent, while Germany's DAX rose 0.6 per cent.

Holcim jumped 6.9 per cent to 80.20 Swiss francs after saying it has held advanced merger discussions with Lafarge , which surged 8.1 per cent to €63.63. Remy Cointreau increased 3.6 per cent to €61.20 following a report that Brown-Forman, which owns the Jack Daniels brand, has considered a purchase of the cognac maker. Renault added 3 per cent to €72.93. The newspaper Les Echos said the French carmaker's labour costs have dropped more than 4 per cent since it reached a deal with staff last year on working time.

A slide in momentum stocks pulled Wall Street and a measure of global equities lower during the middle of its Friday session despite a solid jobs report.

US stocks fell the most in three weeks, as technology and consumer shares sank. Microsoft lost 2.9 per cent as an index of software makers fell 2.3 per cent. Fund managers reported that nervousness about the high valuations in internet-related, computer and biotech stocks had prompted a wave of selling. However, GrubHub rallied 38 per cent to $36. – (Additional reporting: Bloomberg/ Reuters)