European Factors to Watch-Shares seen opening higher
(Adds company news) By Atul Prakash LONDON, May 18 (Reuters) - European shares headed for a firmer start on Monday, with some positive company updates and a rise in the prices of major commodities seen supporting the market. The futures indexes for the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50, Germany's DAX and France's CAC were 0.3 to 0.4 percent higher at 0649 GMT. Energy stocks will be in focus after oil prices gained on concerns that conflict in Iraq and Yemen could disrupt supplies after Islamic State militants said they had taken control of the Iraqi city of Ramadi in a big blow to the government. Prices of key industrial metals were also up. Some positive company updates were also expected to help the market. Kabel Deutschland said it expected its adjusted EBITDA growth to accelerate to a medium to high single-digit percentage this year, after reporting 3.3 percent growth for 2014/15. However, investors were expected to stay cautious following Greece's debt situation. The country is fast running out of cash and talks with its lenders have been deadlocked over their demands for Greece to implement reforms, including pension cuts and labour market liberalisation. German politicians kept up the pressure on Greece over the weekend to implement reforms, with Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel warning Athens in an interview that a third aid package would not be on the cards unless the Greeks made some changes. COMPANY NEWS: BHP BILLITON BHP Billiton's spin-off South32 started trading with a market value of nearly $9 billion on Monday, a third below the top end of forecasts and underlining investor nerves about the outlook for the battered mining sector. Separately, BHP Billiton is looking to take advantage of a slump in oil prices to pick up assets where it can use its deepwater drilling expertise to boost growth as it slows expansion in onshore shale, its petroleum head said. VOLKSWAGEN Volkswagen group sales fell for the first time in at least four and a half years in April, raising pressure on the German carmaker to fix trouble spots laid bare by the shock ouster of Chairman Ferdinand Piech. INMARSAT British satellite company Inmarsat delayed the launch of its Global Xpress satellite on Monday following the launch failure of another rocket at the weekend, forcing it to also trim its financial outlook. DEUTSCHE BANK Deutsche Bank co-CEO Juergen Fitschen returns to a Munich court where he and five other current and former Deutsche executives are on trial for allegedly attempting to manipulate evidence to lower damage payments the bank paid to the Kirch media empire. Separately, co-CEO Anshu Jain told Frankfurt Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in an interview he expected not as many investors as usual would exonerate the board at Thursday's AGM. BANKS, COMMERZBANK Ratings agency Fitch will soon downgrade European banks en masse, possibly even at the start of the week, German newspaper Handelsblatt said, citing unnamed financial sources. The newspaper said dozens of banks would be affected by the downgrade, including Deutsche Bank, which would see its rating fall slightly, and Commerzbank, which would be hit much harder. KABEL DEUTSCHLAND The cable group that was recently taken over by Vodafone VOD.L said it expected its adjusted EBITDA growth to accelerate to a medium to high single-digit percentage this year, after reporting 3.3 percent growth for 2014/15. OMV Austrian energy group OMV's first-quarter underlying operating profit of 333 million euros ($380.3 million) beat market expectations despite falling 50 percent from a year ago as oil prices dropped. SYNGENTA As seed and chemical maker Monsanto Co. woos Swiss agrochemicals firm Syngenta, Monsanto also is trying to win over consumers in key international markets, rolling out social media and marketing campaigns. DEUTSCHE POST German union Verdi continued with nationwide strikes on Saturday, hoping to increase pressure on management in a row over pay and conditions. Separately, the company's long-distance bus unit, Postbus, has signed a partnership deal with a unit of Eurolines, as it continues to expand its network beyond Germany, an executive told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Monday. AVEVA A pack of European and American conglomerates are plotting bids for Aveva, the British engineering software developer, the Sunday Times reported. Senior City sources said Aveva is likely to be the next British company to fall into the hands of an overseas suitor as Schneider Electric, the French energy giant, America's GE, and Emerson, weigh approaches for the company. Traders saw Aveva rising around 2 percent at the open. RIO TINTO Global miner Rio Tinto plans to sell some of its aluminium assets in a potential $1 billion deal, the Financial Times reported, reviving a sale plan for its Pacific Aluminium unit two years after it was cancelled. ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND A U.S. judge on Friday ordered Nomura Holdings Inc and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc to pay a collective $806 million for making false statements in selling mortgage-backed securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. BWIN.PARTY British online gaming company 888 Holdings is to make a takeover approach for rival Bwin.Party, the Sunday Times reported, raising the prospect of a takeover battle between 888 and confirmed suitor GVC Holdings. LUFTHANSA European air traffic labour groups including Germany's GdF meet in Brussels to discuss whether to take industrial action to protest against cost cuts. RENAULT Assembly lines at two Turkish car plants part-owned by European carmakers Renault and Fiat remained at a standstill on Sunday as workers protested employment conditions. Separately, Nissan Motor CEO Carlos Ghosn said on Monday he did not think there was any need to change the automaker's capital alliance with Renault at present after France raised its stake and influence in Renault last month. KERING A group of luxury goods makers sued Alibaba Group Holding Ltd BABA.N on Friday, contending the Chinese online shopping giant had knowingly made it possible for counterfeiters to sell their products throughout the world. UNIBAIL French real estate group Unibail-Rodamco signed an agreement to sell a 46.1 percent stake in German shopping centre operator mfi AG to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board for 394 million euros ($450 million). OSRAM The lighting maker cannot guarantee there will be no job cuts during a spin-off of its traditional business, although there as no concrete plans for headcount reduction at present, chief executive Olaf Berlien told Sueddeutsche Zeitung in an interview published on Monday. BANCA MONTE DEI PASCHI DI SIENA The lender's upcoming rights issue will likely be priced at a discount of between 35-40 percent, Il Messaggero said on Saturday, citing discussions among banks working on the capital hike. The final decision on the discount is expected to be taken at a board meeting on Thursday. SYMRISE The fragrances and flavours maker is looking at around 5-10 takeover targets, CEO Heinz-Juergen Bertram said in an interview with paper Welt am Sonntag. UNICREDIT The lender is looking for a partner to help manage 1.2 billion euros worth of real estate loans, Il Sole 24 Ore said on Saturday. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0521 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 2,122.73 0.08 % 1.63 NIKKEI 19864.05 0.66 % 131.13 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 506.47 -0.58 % -2.98 EUR/USD 1.1426 -0.18 % -0.0021 USD/JPY 119.65 0.32 % 0.3800 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.158 -- 0.02 10-YR BUND YLD 0.635 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,223.95 0.09 % $1.05 US CRUDE $59.94 0.42 % 0.25 > Shares struggle after data raises more questions on U.S. economy > Wall St drifts, S&P 500 ticks up to record > Nikkei rises to 2-1/2-week high, insurers support; Dai-ichi soars > TREASURIES-Yields drop as economic growth slows > Dollar pushes higher but near lows after downbeat U.S. data > Gold near 3-month high on sluggish U.S. data, dollar > Copper steady as downbeat US data puts pressure on dollar > Oil prices rise on Middle East fighting; OPEC output eyed (Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)
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