(Updates futures prices, adds company news)
LONDON, Dec 16 (Reuters) - European shares were expected to edge higher on Wednesday, mirroring gains on Wall Street and in Asia, with investors awaiting the outcome of a crucial rate-setting meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The Fed is widely expected to announce a rate hike after the end of its two-day policy meeting. It would be the first U.S. rate hike in nearly a decade, signalling the beginning of an end to an expansionary monetary policy that has supplied a tidal wave of liquidity to risk asset markets globally.
The decision will be released at 1900 GMT, with markets prepared for an initial 25 basis point "liftoff" that would move the Fed's target rate from the zero lower bound to a range of between 0.25 and 0.50 percentage points. It is to be followed by a news conference by Fed Chair Janet Yellen to elaborate on the central bank's latest policy statement.
Futures for the Euro STOXX 50, Germany's DAX, France's CAC and Britain's FTSE were up 0.1 to 0.2 percent by 0747 GMT.
The European Union is set to agree a six-month extension of its economic sanctions on Russia on Friday, once Italy's prime minister has discussed the issue with his fellow leaders at a summit in Brussels, diplomats said on Tuesday.
Swiss private bank Julius Baer will buy Commerzbank's Luxembourg private banking franchise with close to 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in assets under management, Baer announced on Wednesday.
Imperial Tobacco Group plans to drop "tobacco" from its name and call itself Imperial Brands, which is more in keeping with its business now, it said on Tuesday. Big tobacco companies have diversified into cigarette alternatives as the world smokes less due to growing health consciousness and regulation.
Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc will eliminate its aerospace and land and sea divisions, leading to the early departure of the divisions' respective heads, a spokesperson said on Tuesday, confirming a story in the Financial Times.
Germany's environmental lobby group DUH is due to hold a press conference in Berlin to present the results of further tests of the emissions of various vehicles.
The European Banking Authority gave banks in the European Union more flexibility than anticipated in how to manage their exposure to shadow banking, in final guidelines published on Tuesday, and delayed the start date by a year to 2017.
The sports firm's CEO, Herbert Hainer, does not rule out an end to its long-running sponsorship of FIFA should world soccer's governing body not successfully reform itself, he told Handelsblatt.
Iron ore miner BHP Billiton is expected to cut capital spending again for its diminished United States oil and gas business, and is considering shutting down more rigs and further write-downs to the onshore division next month, The Sydney Morning Herald said. This news was published by other media houses as well. (bit.ly/1P6iyHT)
Pimco's CIO said investors have been overreacting to the credit turmoil, stemming from the junk-bond fund collapse at Third Avenue Management, and that the Newport Beach, California-based firm is looking to take advantage of the sell-off.
Henkel's U.S. unit said it was buying Magna-Tech Manufacturing, headquartered in Muncie, Indiana, a provider of vacuum impregnation services. Magna-Tech will operate as part of Henkel's adhesive technologies business.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has put the brakes on 250 million euros of funding it had approved to help build a new VW factory in Poland, according to two sources at the development bank.
Separately, the EU's anti-fraud office confirmed it is investigating VW over the use of EU R&D funds, Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported.
German broadcaster ZDF aired a programme in which tests carried out by the Bern University of Applied Sciences on VW, Daimler and BMW cars showed higher emissions than in lab tests.
The carmaker will also brief workers at its Dresden plant on Wednesday about the factory's future use.
The group reported an 8 percent rise in full-year earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to 130.6 million euros, beating consensus for 125 million.
Microchip Technology Inc is the semiconductor manufacturer which made the $3.8 billion unsolicited offer for Dialog target Atmel Corp that was disclosed last week, a person familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
The French retailer announced plans to raise more than 2 billion euros by selling part of its real estate portfolio in Thailand and Colombia, as well as its Vietnam operations.
Aerospace supplier Zodiac said there were some delays to its deliveries of toilets for the Airbus A350 aircraft.
The French media group won the right to name four representatives to the board of Telecom Italia under proposals approved by its shareholders.
The French energy and environmental services group announced a partnership with Neste and Borealis to build a new heat and power plant in Finland.
The French outdoor ad company said it won a 15-year contract for the Guangzhou Metro advertising concession, to be operated as a joint venture with the Guangzhou Metro Corporation.
Japan Airlines plans to halt one of its two daily Tokyo-Paris flights in January and February in response to lower traffic following the Paris attacks, Nikkei reported.
Spain's Iberdrola said on Wednesday it expects to finalise the merger with UIL Holdings today and to begin listing Iberdrola USA, Inc, to be known as Avangrid, Inc, in the United States on Thursday.
Royal Bank of Scotland said on Wednesday it would begin a dual-track trade sale process of its William & Glyn banking business in the first half of 2016, after attracting informal interest from buyers.
Dixons Carphone, Britain's largest electricals and mobile phone retailer, beat forecasts with a 23 percent rise in first half profit, helped by a strong performance in its home market where it outperformed rivals.
Creditor banks are ready to extend a short-term cash lifeline to debt-laden Spanish energy group Abengoa to avert what would be Spain's biggest-ever bankruptcy, according to sources, but the firm's future beyond January remains unclear.
AstraZeneca said on Wednesday it had entered into a definitive agreement to buy the respiratory business of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd for $575 million.
Senior executives are expected to testify in a suit brought by its former head of food safety alleging psychological harassment after she blew the whistle on food safety issues. Nestle denies the allegations.
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Moody's affirmed the Aa3 IFSR and senior debt rating of Swiss Re and placed Swiss Re Corporate Solutions on review for upgrade
Mergers and acquisitions activity in Brazil will remain stable next year even as the steepest recession in a quarter century weighs down confidence in Latin America's largest economy, Credit Suisse bankers told reporters.
Scandinavian Airline reported a swing into profit before taxes in August-October period and forecast a positive result for its 2015/2016 fiscal year.
The Swedish steelmaker warned of a surprise operating loss in the fourth quarter, saying earnings were hit by lower volumes and falling prices in Europe and North America.
Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta