European Factors to Watch-Shares seen steady; eyes on earnings
PARIS, Feb 26 (Reuters) - European stocks were seen steady at the open on Thursday, as investors focused on a flurry of corporate results from blue chips including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Allianz and Deutsche Telekom . AB InBev, the world's largest brewer, announced a sharply higher dividend and a $1-billion share buyback on Thursday. It also forecast improved beer sales in most of its major markets. German insurer Allianz raised its dividend by less than expected after full year operating and net profit fell short of analysts' expectations in 2014. About two thirds into Europe's earnings season, 55 percent companies have met or beaten profit forecasts. Overall, fourth-quarter earnings are expected to grow by 19.5 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, which would be Europe's best season in 3-1/2 years. In mergers and acquisitions on Thursday, Spanish utility Iberdrola said it will buy UIL Holdings Corp for about $3 billion as it seeks to expand in the United States. On the macro front, data showed German consumer sentiment jumped to its highest level in more than 13 years heading into March as low oil prices benefited households, freeing up cash for them to spend on other things. At 0738 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, for Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were up 0.03 to 0.1 percent. Greece remains in the spotlight after the country said on Wednesday it will struggle to make debt repayments to the IMF and the European Central Bank this year while Germany's finance minister voiced open doubts about Athens' trustworthiness. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0738 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 2,113.86 -0.08 % -1.62 NIKKEI 18785.79 1.08 % 200.59 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 488.85 -0.17 % -0.84 EUR/USD 1.1355 -0.05 % -0.0006 USD/JPY 118.92 0.07 % 0.0800 10-YR US TSY YLD 1.957 -- -0.01 10-YR BUND YLD 0.317 -- -0.01 SPOT GOLD $1,211.30 0.57 % $6.90 US CRUDE $50.66 -0.65 % -0.33 > GLOBAL MARKETS-SHARES DIP FROM 5-MONTH HIGH, DOLLAR STEADIES > US STOCKS-S&P, NASDAQ EDGE DOWN WITH APPLE; DOW ENDS AT RECORD HIGH > NIKKEI RISES TO FRESH 15-YEAR HIGH AS FED SUPPORTS MOOD > TREASURIES-BOND PRICES RISE AFTER LATEST YELLEN REMARKS, CPI EYED > FOREX-FED DISAPPOINTS DOLLAR BULLS, WEAK DATA KNOCKS AUSSIE DOWN > PRECIOUS-GOLD HOLDS ABOVE $1,200 ON VIEW US RATE RISE WILL BE DELAYED > COPPER CLIMBS TOWARDS 6-WK PEAK AS CHINA TRICKLES IN FROM HOLIDAY > BRENT DROPS TOWARDS $61 AS US CRUDE STOCKS RISE COMPANY NEWS: ANHEUSER-BUSCH INBEV The world's largest brewer, announced a sharply higher dividend and a $1-billion share buyback on Thursday. It also forecast improved beer sales in most of its major markets. ALLIANZ German insurer raised its dividend by less than expected after full year operating and net profit fell short of analysts' expectations in 2014. IBERDROLA SA Spanish utility will buy UIL Holdings Corp for about $3 billion to create a new listed power and electric utility and expand in the United States. RBS Royal Bank of Scotland reported a 2014 loss of 3.5 billion pounds ($5.4 billion), hit by a writedown on the value of its U.S. business Citizens and new charges relating to foreign exchange investigations and mis-selling. RBS, which is 79 percent-owned by the British taxpayer, also announced the appointment of ex-financial regulator Howard Davies as its new chairman. ENEL The Italian government started selling a 5.74 percent stake in the state-controlled utility on Wednesday in a deal that could earn it around 2.2 billion euros ($2.5 billion). RSA RSA said on Thursday it posted a 2014 pre-tax profit of 275 million pounds ($427.24 million), recovering from a 244 million pound loss in 2013. DEUTSCHE TELEKOM The firm promised to pay a minimum dividend of 0.50 euros per share in the next four years, which it expects to grow in line with its free cash flow. GDF SUEZ The French gas and power group said recurring income and profit slid last year as unusually warm weather in Europe hit gas sales and electricity prices in Europe fell. BRITISH AMERICAN TOBACCO British American Tobacco, the world's second-biggest tobacco company, reported a slightly smaller-than-expected full-year sales decline, as smokers continued to cut back on the habit. VEOLIA The French water and waste group booked a 331 million euro 2014 net profit, reversing a restated 45.6 million year-earlier loss, as its international business boomed. REED ELSEVIER Anglo Dutch publisher plans to return 500 million pounds ($777 million) to investors via a share buyback after reporting an as expected 3 percent rise in full-year underlying sales. BAYER Germany's largest drugmaker said it expects underlying core earnings to increase by a low to medium double-digit percentage this year, as it gets a boost from new drugs such as stroke prevention pill Xarelto. AHOLD The Dutch operator of supermarkets in the United States and Europe, reported on Thursday a slightly better-than-expected fourth-quarter net income of 219 million euros ($248.85 million) and announced a dividend hike and new share buy back programme. PROSIEBENSAT.1 German media group reported a 7.6 percent increase in fourth-quarter core earnings, driven by new television stations and its HD distribution business. HSBC The UK tax authority said prosecuting and regulatory agencies would meet next week to discuss leaks of account information from clients who used a Swiss subsidiary of HSBC bank to evade tax. RBS Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC is set to confirm the appointment of Howard Davies as its new chairman on Thursday, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. ASTRAZENECA The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the use of Actavis Plc's antibiotic, Avycaz, which is being co-developed with AstraZeneca, to battle drug-resistant bacteria known as superbugs. THALES Europe's largest defence electronics group posted lower full-year profit on Thursday after cost overruns on military submarines at its DCNS naval subsidiary but predicted a return to profitability this year as the unit rights itself. CGG The French seismic group said it would further trim its fleet of seismic vessels after declining demand from oil and gas clients hit by the falling oil price led the company to take a $643 million impairment and one-off charges in the fourth quarter. HOCHTIEF German construction group on Thursday targeted a jump of up to 37 percent in 2015 operating profit as a restructuring programme under new Chief Executive Marcelino Fernandez Verdes takes hold. SOLVAY Belgian chemicals group on Thursday said it would pay out more to its shareholders after its core profit for the fourth quarter beat expectations, as the group was able to raise its prices faster than raw material costs increased. EIFFAGE The French builder expects another rise in profits this year, after tight cost control and a strong performance at its concessions business helped operating profit to increase by 2.2 percent in 2014. SAINT-GOBAIN Europe's biggest supplier of building materials said it aims to improve underlying operating profit this year and save a further 400 million euros. SKY Sky Sports has agreed to a four-year deal to broadcast live Major League Soccer, the British broadcaster and North American league said on Wednesday. TOTAL The management of the French oil major has not confirmed the shutdown of all refining activities at its La Mede platform during a meeting with unions this week, a spokesman said. SOCIETE GENERALE The French bank said it would exercise its option to buy 50 percent of Antarius, an insurance company dedicated to the Credit du Nord networks. HOCHTIEF German construction group on Thursday targeted a jump of up to 37 percent in 2015 operating profit as a restructuring programme under new Chief Executive Marcelino Fernandez Verdes takes hold. (Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Alistair Smout)
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