European markets gain ground despite Covid fears

Ryanair benefits from European Commission travel pledge

European markets gained ground on Thursday despite fears over rising Covid levels and Wall Street’s Thanksgiving holiday break.


Ryanair gained ground as the European Commission pledged to continue backing freedom of member state citizens' movement over revived travel curbs.

The Irish airline, Europe’s biggest, added 1.62 per cent to €15.96, making what dealers dubbed a “strong comeback” from earlier this week.

The European Commission says it wants to avoid a patchwork of different measures across EU member states.


It recommended shortening vaccine cert validity to nine months and requiring a third dose to maintain the digital pass’s status. Some industry players questioned this approach but investors saw it as a boost to airlines.

Their optimism fed a rise in travel and leisure-tied stocks. Hotel group Dalata gained 1.1 per cent to €1.10.

A big move on house-builder Glenveagh Properties pushed its price up by 1 per cent to €1.186. That spilled over to rival Cairn Homes, which closed 0.7 per cent up at €1.14.

Farm services business Origin Enterprises climbed 7 per cent to €3.58 after the business said that revenues in the traditionally quiet first quarter of its financial year rose to €454.1 million from €318.3 million in the comparable period in 2020.

Dealers said the shares performed strongly, but pointed out that there was not much liquidity in the stock.


Irish-based sandwich maker Greencore rose 1.8 per cent to 135.3 pence sterling despite late news that chief executive Patrick Coveney would leave in March.

Dealers said the announcement was “surprising”, and suggested that the market had yet to digest the implications for the food group. “A lot will depend on who succeeds him,” noted one trader.

Greencore is listed in London as much of its business is in the UK, but is headquartered in the Republic.

Airport and travel catering specialist SSP Group, whose helm Mr Coveney will take in March, advanced 3.06 per cent to 256.2p.

DIY and builders' supplies business Grafton, another Irish-based but London-listed group, dipped 0.58 per cent to 1,200p.

Traders noted that the Woodies DIY owner’s industry was generally weak across European markets on Thursday.

Aer Lingus and British Airways-owner International Consolidated Airlines Group rose 1.01 per cent to 154.32p, benefiting from a boost in investors' view of airlines.

Low-cost flier Easyjet gained 1.33 per cent to 564.4p on the same switch in sentiment.

A takeover offer from its biggest shareholder sent fuel seller Vivo Energy to the top of the FTSE 350. Its shares surged 18.5 per cent to 132p after the Africa-focused seller of Shell and Engen fuels said it would recommend the offer to other backers.

Omega Diagnostics shares plunged after it said it was "disappointed" with a lack of progress and commitment from the British government regarding Covid-19 testing contracts. Shares in the Scottish diagnostics business tumbled 26.25 per cent to 29.5p after it told shareholders on Thursday morning that it saw losses widen to £3.4 million for the half-year to September.

All Bar One and Harvester-owner Mitchells & Butlers made gains after the hospitality firm narrowed its annual losses. Shares in the pub owner rose 8.4 per cent to 244.4p.


The Europe-wide Stoxx 600 index rose 0.4 per cent, bouncing off three-week lows hit on Wednesday on fears over rising Covid rates.

Italy pledged to toughen its stance on people unwilling to get vaccinated against the virus, while France suggested that masks could once again become compulsory.

Air France KLM's share gained 2.51 per cent to €4.17 as the announcement from EU authorities eased concerns about revived travel bans. German airline group Lufthansa added 1.04 per cent to €6.21.

Remy Cointreau jumped 13.4 per cent to a record €212 after raising its full-year profit outlook as strong demand for its premium cognac drove a stronger-than-expected operating profit in the first half.

Rival Pernod Ricard, owner of Jameson and Green Spot whiskeys producer Irish Distillers, gained 2.5 per cent to €213.


Wall Street was closed on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday. – Additional reporting: Reuters

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas