European shares gain ground as Ryanair and William Hill surge

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* STOXX 600 rises, but still down 6 pct in 2016

* Bid interest drives up William Hill shares

* Ryanair rises, issues upbeat outlook despite Brexit

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON, July 25 (Reuters) - European stocks rose on Monday, with low-cost airline Ryanair climbing after it issued a bullish outlook while shares in William Hill surged on bid interest from its rivals.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was up 0.7 percent, near the level it was at before Britain’s vote in late June to quit the European Union.

European stock markets also edged higher after the publication of Germany’s IFO business morale data.

Even though the IFO reading fell to 108.3 in July from 108.7 in June, it still came in stronger than the Reuters consensus forecast for a reading of 107.5.

Ryanair rose 5.7 percent after the company said it remained on track for its highest-ever profit this year, although it also warned it may yet have to review guidance since Brexit had created huge uncertainty.

“The company is cautious on the impact of Brexit and we expect it to continue to offer deep discounts through the rest of the year to keep cabins full. Nonetheless, these results demonstrate the resilience of the Ryanair business model and we expect consensus forecast to be unchanged at this time,” said Cantor Fitzgerald analyst

William Hill jumped 8.5 percent after online gambling group 888 Holdings and casino operator Rank Group said they were joining forces with a view to making a bid.

Shares in French household equipment company SEB hit a record high after its interim results.

The STOXX 600 index is up some 10 percent from a low point reached in June after the Brexit vote, although the index remains down by around 6 percent so far in 2016.

The STOXX 600 index’s recent rally has also started to stall slightly over the last week, and strategists at Goldman Sachs remained cautious over the near-term outlook for the market.

European banks are due to have “stress test” results on their general financial strength on July 29, amid concerns over bad debts at Italian banks while shares in Deutsche Bank have touched record lows this month.

The FTSE Italia All Share Banks index was little changed on Monday but was still down around 50 percent so far in 2016.

“Stretched valuations, lacklustre growth, political uncertainty and pressure on financials could weigh on equities,” Goldman Sachs wrote in a note. (Editing by Robin Pomeroy)