February 8, 2018 / 7:43 AM / a year ago

LIVE MARKETS-M&A newsflow puts insurers in focus

    Feb 8 (Reuters) - Welcome to the home for real time coverage of European equity markets
brought to you by Reuters stocks reporters and anchored today by Helen Reid. Reach her on
Messenger to share your thoughts on market moves: helen.reid.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net
    Insurance stocks are definitely on the watchlist with some interesting M&A newsflow that
could liven up the session with Swiss Re set to lead the dance after surprise news
that Japan's SoftBank is in talks to buy a minority stake in the Swiss reinsurer. 
    "Yesterday’s announcement is totally surprising," says Baader Bank Helvea analyst Daniel
Bischof. "However, given SoftBank’s technology-vision, Swiss Re makes sense as a target given
its extraordinary research & development capabilities which distinguish Swiss Re from
competition and make the company a knowledge powerhouse," he added.
    Swiss Re shares are seen up 5 percent following the news. The deal is reported to be worth
10 billion or more.
    Still in the sector, a source-based Bloomberg report said yesterday that Bermuda-based
insurer XL Group attracting interest from rivals including Allianz SE of Germany. goo.gl/XHHosw
    And there are also some earnings updates. Zurich Insurance reported
better-than-expected earnings as the insurer dealt with a raft of natural catastrophe losses and
a sluggish investment environment.
    (Danilo Masoni)
Oil group Total raises dividend and plans share buyback as 2017 profit soars 
Swiss Re in talks with SoftBank, Japanese firm could take minority stake
Italy's UniCredit swings to 2017 profit 
SocGen quarterly profit plunges although results top expectations 
Commerzbank profit declines in Q4 amid weak markets and restructuring 
Compass Group sees FY organic revenue growth at top end of forecast 
ABB sees brighter outlook after Q4 net profit drops
Digital shake-up drives Publicis to revise down profit target for 2018 
Hermes sales growth slows in Q4, but margins to hit record in 2017 
Akzo Nobel warns of 130 mln euros in 'transformation' costs 
Norway's Yara Q4 lags forecast, proposes smaller dividend
Voestalpine's Q3 net profit boosted by strong steel demand
Pernod Ricard raises profit goal after forecast-beating H1 results 
TalkTalk to raise cash after cutting forecasts​ 
Britain looking closely at Melrose bid for GKN - PM May 
Bayer-Monsanto deal edges closer to Brazil antitrust approval 
Smith & Nephew meets lower end of guidance range for 2017    
U.S. FDA approves Gilead triple HIV drug, GSK venture files lawsuit 
Zurich Insurance beats 2017 profit estimates, raises dividend 
Finland's Solidium sells Telia stake for 5.1 bln SEK
Thomas Cook expands airline business by 10 pct for this summer 
TDC rejects takeover offer from Macquarie, Danish funds
ArcelorMittal to top Brazil's long steel output after Votorantim deal -exec 
Ashmore says H1 assets up 18 pct on inflows, market gains 
Airbus says may increase A400M provision 
France's Vinci optimistic on 2018 prospects 
Stronger sales at European shopping centres help boost Klepierre's cash flow 
Swiss watchdog in touch with Credit Suisse over volatility ETN 
AA sees FY core profit of 390-395 mln stg 
UK's Bellway sees 14 pct rise in first-half housing revenue
Britain's Tate & Lyle quarterly sales volume picks up pace
    (Tom Pfeiffer)
    It certainly looks like a weaker session for European stocks ahead, with futures down 0.5 to
0.8 percent.
    Results from UK companies including Thomas Cook, TalkTalk, DFS Furniture, and Sophos, are
just hitting the wire. 
    M&A activity could also liven up today's session with Swiss Re's shares seen
opening up 5 percent after the reinsurer said it was in talks with SoftBank on a
potential minority stake.
    (Helen Reid)
    Nevertheless there are other events in Europe today which should grab investors' attention,
with results still rolling in from big corporate players.
    Banks are at the forefront today with Societe Generale reporting forecast-beating
results despite quarterly profit plunging on tax-related and restructuring costs.
Commerzbank also flagged a 51 percent decline in Q4 profit, blaming weak
markets and its overhaul.
    Other notable results include truck maker Volvo, which reported record profit,
and Swiss engineering group ABB, which gave a brighter outlook for the year.

    We'll also be closely watching the Bank of England's rate decision and inflation report -
particularly considering the past week's jitters over inflation. 
    SocGen analysts expect the BoE to slightly raise growth and inflation forecasts.
    "The MPC will be happy to see that the money market is now taking seriously its message of
further tightening," they write. "However the market has brought forward the expected timing of
rate increases compared to its view three months ago quite aggressively, and even though we
expect the tone of the report to be slightly more hawkish, we think it might not be enough to
validate the current Overnight Index Swap curve."
    (Helen Reid)
    Good morning and welcome to Live Markets. 
    That was nice while it lasted! European stocks are set to fall back again after a
short-lived recovery bounce yesterday, as Wall Street and Asian markets lost steam overnight.
Looks like those calls for volatility to stay high in the short- to medium-term were prescient.
    Asian shares hovered near six-week lows as U.S. bond yields headed towards four-year highs,
keeping pressure on investors spooked by signs of rising inflation.
    Spreadbetters call the DAX 108 points lower at 12,482, the CAC 40 down 47 points at 5,208.8,
and the FTSE down 56 points at 7,223.2. The damage done in the past fortnight is considerable:
the DAX ended yesterday 7.4 percent down from its record high hit as recently as Jan 23. 
    (Helen Reid)

 (Reporting by Danilo Masoni, Helen Reid, Kit Rees and Julien Ponthus)
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