European shares flat, but FBD rebounds after High Court decision

Insurer up 5.9% after falling 1.4% in midday trading as Malin among other gainers on day

European stocks were little changed at the end of an upbeat week on Friday, with disappointing US data highlighting the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, while in Germany industrial orders declined.

DUBLIN

The Dublin market closed flat on Friday in line with its peers elsewhere in Europe.

Shares in FBD closed up 5.9 per cent having fallen 1.4 per cent in midday trading after the High Court’s decision on compensation for four pubs under businesses interruption policies. The insurer, which has set aside €30 million in provisions for liabilities, said it would make interim payments to “valid” claims.

Malin was another gainer, rising 6.5 per cent albeit on low shares traded. Immunocore, a UK biotech company in which the Irish life sciences investment company has a 6 per cent stake floated on the Nasdaq on Friday. It was trading up 71 per cent in midday trading in New York.

Bookies were in favour across Europe although Flutter lagged its rivals, closing up just 0.3 per cent higher ahead of Super Bowl weekend.

It was a mixed performance on the banking front with Bank of Ireland, down 0.2 per cent and AIB 1.9 per cent higher.

Other movers included Iseq heavyweight CRH, which lost 1 per cent, and Dalata, up 1 per cent.

LONDON

British mid-caps rose on Friday, scoring their best week since November, as power equipment supplier Aggreko soared following a buyout proposal and faster vaccine rollouts supported hopes for a brisk economic revival.

Aggreko surged 32.9 per cent after saying it was in talks over a possible £2.25 billion buyout by private equity groups TDR Capital LLP and I Squared Capital. The mid-cap index rose 1.2 per cent and the blue-chip FTSE 100 index fell 0.2 per cent, with Unilever and AstraZeneca the biggest drags on the latter.

In company news, shares in Beazley jumped 14.9 per cent after the insurer said it was confident of returning to profitability and bringing back its dividend during the course of this year.

Shares of French Connection soared 66.1 per cent after the British fashion retailer said was is in takeover talks with two possible suitors.

EUROPE

The STOXX 600 posted its best weekly performance since November with a rise of 3.5 per cent despite a lacklustre session on Friday, when gains in travel and leisure stocks, basic materials and banks were countered by losses in defensive sectors such as utilities, telecoms and healthcare.

Sanofi gained 1.5 per cent as the French drugmaker said it aimed to grow earnings per share this year after posting stronger-than-expected quarterly results.

Shares in Vinci were the biggest boost to the STOXX 600 after Europe's biggest construction and concessions company beat full-year core profit forecasts, helped by some recovery in its contracting business.

NEW YORK

US stocks rose on Friday with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq hitting record highs as a smaller than expected rebound in the labour market last month highlighted the need for more government aid to shore up the economy.

Johnson & Johnson rose 1.6 per cent after the drugmaker said it had asked US health regulators to authorise its single-dose Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use.

Shares of GameStop, caught in the recent social media-hyped trading frenzy, jumped about 30 per cent again on Friday, after online broker Robinhood lifted all the buying curbs imposed at the height of the battle between amateur investors and Wall Street hedge funds.

Activision Blizzard jumped about 9.2 per cent after the company forecast full-year adjusted revenue above analysts' estimates, driven by strong demand for the latest instalment of its blockbuster "Call of Duty" franchise.

Clover Health Investments said it had received a letter from the US Securities and Exchange Commission following a critical report published by noted short-selling specialist Hindenburg Research. Clover's shares dropped about 1.8 per cent, extending losses from the previous session's 12 per cent plunge.

– Additional reporting: Reuters

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist

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