European equity markets crept higher on Monday, lifted by the strong finish in the US on Friday and a robust start to the week in Asia.

Activity was light and gains were slim however, with many markets, including London and Frankfurt, closed for public holidays.

The FTSE Eurofirst 300 ended the session up 0.1 per cent at 1,599.41, while the CAC 40 in Paris added 0.2 per cent to 6,071.47.

Prospects of a bid war for OMX, the Nordic bourse operator, drove the stock 8.3 per cent higher to SKr216 after weekend press reports said the Dubai International Financial Centre, the investment group which owns Dubai’s stock exchange, was considering a counter bid for the Scandinavian group.

On Friday, OMX agreed a $3.7bn takeover by US-based Nasdaq, whose bid for the London Stock Exchange was rebuffed in February.

Millennium BCP, Portugal’s largest bank, rose 2.3 per cent to €3.50 after Keefe, Bruyette & Woods raised its price target from €2.80 to €3.90, saying that under the current environment of consolidation in the banking sector, BCP would make an attractive break-up takeover candidate.

The bank was hoping to pass company statutes to make it easier to defend against hostile bids at Monday’s annual general meeting. Although the move was expected to face tough opposition from shareholder groups, the outcome of the vote was unknown by the time of the market close.

Spanish tobacco company Altadis was up 0.9 per cent to €50.60 after reports the UK’s Imperial Tobacco was set to make a sweetened offer of more than €50 a share.

Imperial’s original offer of €47 a share was trumped earlier this month by a €50-a-share bid from private equity groups CVC and PAI Partners.

Safran, the French aerospace and telecoms group, rose 2.3 per cent to €19.58 after announcing late on Friday it was to split its Sagem Communication division into two separate subsidiaries - a mobile telecoms equipment division and a broadband division. The company added it was seeking partnerships for both units.

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