Unilever share jump offset drops in Euro banks and commodities

Kingspan falls 1.7% on Iseq as group cites challenges keeping growth going in 2017

Unilever: The consumer good group surged 13 per cent after rejecting a $143bn takeover offer from  Kraft Heinz. Photograph: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

Unilever: The consumer good group surged 13 per cent after rejecting a $143bn takeover offer from Kraft Heinz. Photograph: Reuters/Brendan McDermid


European stocks ended the session little changed as a jump in Unilever shares offset declines in banks and commodity producers.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 Index added less than 0.1 per cent at the close.

The Iseq index declined by 0.05 per cent to 6,540.23 points.

Kingspan fell 1.7 per cent to €29.35 as investors took an opportunity to lock in profits after the stock performed strongly in advance of the insulation manufacturer reporting a strong set of full-year figures. The group said it faces challenges maintaining growth rates this year.

Financial stocks were also out of sorts, with Bank of Ireland falling 3.3 per cent to 23.3 cent, while FBD dropped 1.9 per cent to €8.10 ahead of its full-year results on Monday week.

On the positive side, Glanbia jumped almost 4 per cent to €17.13, while Kerry Group added 2.8 per cent to €70.51. Analysts at Davy expect Glanbia to meet its own 8-10 per cent adjusted earnings per share growth guidance when it publishes results on Wednesday. Kerry Group also reports next week, on Tuesday.

Irish Continental Group gained 2 per cent to €5.10. “ICG’s share price has had a very impressive start to 2017,” said Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Stephen Hall. “We will remain positive on the outlook for the stock until we see potential policies that Brexit could materially impact the underlying fundamentals of the business.”

The FTSE 100 closed 0.3 per cent higher at 7,299.96 points, buoyed by shares in Unilever, which surged by 13 per cent, after the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods group rejected a $143 billion (€135 billion) takeover offer from US peer Kraft Heinz.

“Unilever are clearly in no mood to sell,” said Steve Clayton, a fund manager with Hargreaves Lansdown. “So, to win over a majority of Unilever’s shareholders, we think Kraft Heinz will need to dig very very deep indeed.”

Rolls Royce dropped almost 4 per cent after ratings firm Fitch downgraded its view of the engineering giant’s creditworthiness to A- from A, just days after the group reported a £4.64 billion (€5.43 billion) pretax loss for 2014.

Pharmaceuticals stocks were in demand. AstraZeneca rose 1.6 per cent after saying that its drug Lynparza, already approved to treat ovarian cancer, met the main goal of helping breast cancer patients live longer without their condition worsening in a late-stage study.

However, miners and oil companies were out of favour. Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Royal Dutch Shell fell 1.3-1.8 per cent.

led carmakers lower, down 2.3 per cent, as investors digested news that global sales of its own brand vehicles fell in January.

Banking stocks across the continent were out of sorts as investors took an opportunity to take some money off the table. The sector is still poised for a fifth straight monthly advance, which would be the longest winning streak in three years.

US stocks headed for the first two-day slide of the month by early afternoon trading on Friday, while bonds advanced as the rally in riskier assets that took equities to records eased, with investors awaiting details of the Trump administration’s pro-growth policies.

Stocks are pausing a rally as investors go back and forth assessing the prospects for US president Donald Trump’s economic plans and the timing of interest-rate increases in the world’s largest economy. In congressional testimony this week, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen warned against waiting too long to tighten policy

However, Kraft Heinz rose 7 per cent after making a takeover bid for Unilever, lifting shares of consumer products makers.

By early afternoon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.3 per cent at 20,562 points, while the Nasdaq was off 0.1 per cent and the S&P 500 was 0.2 per cent lower.

Energy stocks fell as oil prices dipped, while UnitedHealth sank 3.7 per cent after it was sued by the US justice department over the health insurer’s Medicare charges.