April 17, 2018 / 7:48 AM / 8 months ago

European shares edge up as sentiment improves, Intrum surges

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LONDON, April 17 (Reuters) - European shares edged up on Tuesday morning as sentiment regarding tensions between the U.S. and Russia eased up with attention shifting to the first-quarter earnings season and deal-making.

The pan-regional STOXX 600 index was up 0.1 percent by 0740 GMT, while other European benchmarks were also trading in positive territory, catching up slightly with a strong close on Wall Street.

Data from China however gave a mixed picture of the country’s economic health as growth hit a welcome 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2018 but separate figures showed March industrial output missed expectations.

“After a calming of geopolitical concerns and optimism about the Q1 earnings season, mixed data from China may revive queries about the strength of the world’s #2 economy,” Accendo Markets analysts Mike van Dulken and Artjom Hatsaturjants told their clients.

Sweden’s Intrum Justitia surged more than 11 percent, and posted the best performance of the index after it filed a binding bid for Intesa Sanpaolo’s debt collection unit in a 3.6 billion euro deal that rids the Italian bank of 10.8 billion euros ($13 billion) in bad debts.

While Italy’s non-performing loans used to be seen as a major threat to the country’s economy and by extension to the Euro zone, they are no longer the concern they used to be and Milan’s stock market has been outperforming its peers for months.

Intesa Sanpaolo was up 0.7 percent while Italy’s FTSE MIB rose 0.3 percent, ahead of other indices such as Paris’ CAC 40 up 0.1 percent of Germany’s DAX 0.2 percent.

Britain’s Associated British Foods was a top performer, up 3.6 percent after reporting first-half profit, with a resilient performance at its Primark fashion business and a previously flagged reduction in sugar revenues.

Shares in French healthcare group Sanofi retreated slightly, down 0.2 percent after it announced exclusive talks with private equity firm Advent International to sell its Zentiva European generics drugs arm to Advent for 1.9 billion euros ($2.4 billion).

Still on the French M&A front, Lagardere, the French media group whose assets include Paris Match magazine and Europe 1 radio, rose 0.8 percent after it said it would sell some eastern European radio assets to Czech Media Invest.

Shares in French supermarket Casino rose 0.6 percent after the company reported a 3.1 percent rise in first-quarter sales that reflected stronger performance in its Geant Casino hypermarkets and in Brazil despite food inflation.

Julien Ponthus

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