European shares dip as Carlsberg warns on Russia profits

Wed Aug 20, 2014 12:41pm 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 to buy U.S.-based International Rectifier

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 G7 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 may give clues on its outlook for interest rates.

Shares in Carlsberg fell 3.6 percent after warning on profits. 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 8.3 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.

Overall, investors were wary of 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," Seven Investment Management chief investment strategist Ros Price said.

"There is a lot of opportunity (within equities) but there is a lot of downside risk," she said, noting her preference for exporters to Asia and China where growth seems to be picking up.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares closed down 0.1 percent at 1,346.02 points, after gaining 1.8 percent in the past two sessions.

Stocks had been helped 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 3,083.50 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 that slide, testing the 50-percent Fibonacci retracement level on Wednesday, at 1,348.11 points.

Luxottica, the world's largest eyewear maker by revenue, shed 3.6 percent on reports that CEO Andrea Guerra may step down over differences of opinion with founder and chairman Leonardo Del Vecchio.

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

After the market close, German chipmaker Infineon said that it had agreed to buy U.S.-based International Rectifier for about $3 billion in cash.

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 Louise Ireland)