European shares dip as Carlsberg warns on Russia profits

Wed Aug 20, 2014 11:11am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.1 pct

* Carlsberg warns of deteriorating conditions in Russia

* Heineken surges after forecast-beating results

* Luxottica falls on reports CEO to step down

* Infineon weak; poised to buy U.S. chipmaker - source

By Tricia Wright

LONDON, Aug 20 (Reuters) - European shares dipped on Wednesday, ending a two-day rally, with investors rattled by Carlsberg's warning that profits would fall this year due to deteriorating conditions in Russia.

Further souring the market mood was the spectre of a major central bank raising interest rates as soon as at the start of next year after Bank of England minutes showed two of the bank's nine rate-setting policymakers voted for a hike this month.

The U.S. Federal Reserve is set to release minutes from its July 29-30 policy meeting at 1800 GMT which could give insight on its outlook for interest rates.

Shares in Carlsberg fell 3.6 percent. The Danish brewer derives 35 percent of its profits from Russia, making it a test case of how European companies will be affected by tit-for-tat sanctions between the West and Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.

Shares in rival Heineken, however, surged 7.7 percent after it posted better-than-expected first-half operating profit, as it sped up cost savings and increased volumes in all regions bar Central and Eastern Europe.

Investors were wary about equities, hit in the last few weeks by fears of an escalation in the Ukrainian crisis which has revealed new vulnerabilities in Europe's stumbling economy.

The violence in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia, a major energy supplier to Europe, have muddied the forecasts of a number of multinationals including Henkel, Adidas and Rheinmetall.

"I think (Ukraine-Russia) does provide a deep-seated concern in that it is a seemingly intractable problem for both sides and it does now have serious economic consequences ... The recovery may in some regions actually be reaching a point where it's going to slow down in the foreseeable future," said Ros Price, chief investment strategist at Seven Investment Management.

"There is a lot of opportunity (within equities) but there is a lot of downside risk." Price would look to back firms which export to Asia and China where growth appears to be picking up.

At 1450 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.1 percent at 1,345.09 points, after gaining 1.8 percent in the past two sessions.

Stocks had been helped earlier this week by strong U.S. housing data and soft UK inflation figures.

The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index fell 0.3 percent to 3,081.09 points.

"The recent rebound from the June-August drop should help European indexes retrace about 50 percent of the pullback, but beyond that, the upside potential is quite limited. Indexes are stuck in a range," Aurel BGC analyst Gerard Sagnier said.

The FTSEurofirst 300 - which had tumbled 7 percent between late June and early August - has recovered nearly half of the slide, with the index testing the 50 percent Fibonacci retracement level on Wednesday, at 1,348.11 points.

Luxottica, the world's largest eyewear maker by revenue, shed 3.4 percent on reports that CEO Andrea Guerra may step down over differences of opinion with founder and chairman Leonardo Del Vecchio.

Luxottica declined to address Guerra's future. Guerra, widely seen as a driving force behind Luxottica's success in recent years, has been CEO since 2004.

Meanwhile, Germany's Infineon is poised to buy a U.S.-based semiconductor company for about $2 billion, a person close to the deal told Reuters. Its shares fell 1.5 percent.

Bloomberg earlier cited people familiar with the matter as saying a deal could be announced later on Wednesday.

Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v

Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v

Today's European research round-up (Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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