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(Updates futures prices, adds company news)
LONDON, Dec 17 (Reuters) - European shares headed for a sharp rise on Thursday, tracking gains on Wall Street and Asia, after the U.S. Federal Reserve's move to raise interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade was seen as a sign of confidence in the world's biggest economy.
The Fed made clear that the 25-basis point rate hike was a tentative beginning to a "gradual" tightening cycle, and that in deciding its next move it would put a premium on monitoring inflation, which remains mired below target.
"The fact is, the market would have found inspiration that there is no pre-set path for future rate hikes and the word 'gradual' was used liberally," Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG said.
The Fed's policy statement noted the "considerable improvement" in the U.S. labor market, where the unemployment rate has fallen to 5 percent, and said policymakers are "reasonably confident" inflation will rise over the medium term to the Fed's 2 percent objective.
"The rates are still exceptionally low and monetary policy is still being set with a view to encourage growth, not rein growth in," Christopher Mahon, director of asset allocation research at Baring Asset Management, said in a note.
Futures for the Euro STOXX 50 index, Germany's DAX, France's CAC and Britain's FTSE 100 index were up 1.6 to 2.2 percent by 0755 GMT.
Resource-related stocks will also be in focus as prices of key industrial metals fell following a rally in the dollar after the Fed rate hike, while crude oil prices dropped also due to a surprise build in U.S. inventories.
U.S. share indexes rose 1.3 to 1.5 percent in the previous session, while Japan's Nikkei share average and MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 1.6 percent and 0.7 percent respectively on Thursday.
The drugmaker said on Thursday it had agreed to buy a 55 percent stake in privately held biotech firm Acerta Pharma for $4.0 billion to give it access to a new kind of drug for fighting blood cancers.
Spain's ACS has contracted Societe Generale and BBVA to sell its affiliate Urbaser, valued at between 2 billion and 2.5 billion euros, Expansion reported, citing unnamed sources.
Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne was appointed chairman of the French oil and gas giant, combining both roles a year after they were split following the death of Christophe de Margerie, who had held both positions.
Total's board also decided to pay a second-quarter dividend of 0.61 euros per share to be paid in cash or discounted new shares.
Belgian biotech company Galapagos has signed a development deal for drugs targeting inflammatory diseases potentially worth more than $2 billion with U.S. group Gilead.
Warren Buffett has cut his stake in the reinsurer further to 3.04 percent from 4.6 percent previously, Munich Re said in a regulatory diclosure.
The French carmaker said it would end supplementary pension payouts for board members and executives in a move that was expected to save 34 million euros.
Temasek is willing to give Standard Chartered time to work on its turnaround before deciding on the fate of its underperforming $4 billion stake in the UK bank as part of a portfolio reshuffle, people familiar with the matter said.
The European plane maker has shortlisted Carlyle and KKR for the defence electronics unit it is selling, after the two U.S. buyout groups put in significantly higher offers than rivals, three people familiar with the matter said.
Court hearing due on RWE's 235 million euro damage claim against Hesse/Federal Government over the shutdown of the Biblis nuclear power plant.
The French luxury company said it would pay an interim dividend or 1.50 euros a share for the 2015 financial year.
Switzerland's communications regulator on Wednesday forbid Swiss public television and radio broadcaster (SRG) at least temporarily from participating in a marketing venture it hopes to forge with Swisscom and media company Ringier. For more click
Royal Dutch Shell's takeover of BG Group may look less attractive after the slide in oil prices but the fact the same investors own nearly half of both firms means the deal is still likely to go through.
Financial investor Triton is among the bidders making binding offers for Bilfinger's Water Technologies unit but the sale is unlikely to go through this year, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported, citing financial sources. Bilfinger and Triton declined to comment, the newspaper said.
Spain's Gamesa said on Thursday it has won a contract in India to build a 100-MW wind farm for Tata Power.
Prosecutors have asked Spain's High Court to investigate a legal complaint against two former top executives of engineering and energy firm Abengoa filed by investors hit by the company's financial troubles, a legal source said on Wednesday.
The company said markets had continued to be challenging and its EPS for the current year was now projected to be at the lower end of market expectations.
Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta