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06.03.2013 18:32

European stocks close

European stocks fell from a 4 1/2- year high, with the benchmark index reversing gains in the last hour of trading, as companies from Henkel AG to Legal & General Group Plc posted earnings.

National benchmark indexes dropped in 14 of the 18 western European markets. Germany’s DAX added 0.6 percent and France’s CAC 40 retreated 0.4 percent, while the U.K.’s FTSE 100 was little changed.

Sacyr slipped 3.6 percent to 1.65 euros after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said it sold a 2.79 percent stake in the Spanish builder at 1.64 euros per share. The bank purchased the shares from Austral BV before reselling them to investors.

Axel Springer AG tumbled 5.9 percent to 34.13 euros after Europe’s largest newspaper publisher forecast lower profit in 2013 because of spending to accelerate its shift to digital publications amid a declining print business. The owner of Germany’s largest tabloid also reported a 5.8 percent increase in 2012 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Henkel rose 2.4 percent to 70.33 euros, the highest price since at least August 1992. The world’s biggest adhesives company reported a 4 percent increase in like-for-like revenue for the fourth-quarter, topping analyst estimates for a 3.2 percent gain. Henkel also forecast sales growth of as much as 5 percent and higher profitability this year.

Legal & General gained 3.3 pence to 166 pence, the highest price in almost six years, as the largest manager of U.K. pension assets raised its dividend 20 percent to 7.65 pence a share after demand for retirement products boosted sales, cash flow and profit.

Admiral Group Plc rallied 5.3 percent to 1,334 pence after the owner of the confused.com website reported a 15 percent increase in full-year pretax profit to 345 million pounds ($519 million). That beat the 331.7 million-pound average estimate of analysts.

Vodafone Group Plc rallied 6.8 percent to 180 pence, the biggest increase since February 2009, after people familiar with the situation said Verizon Communications is seeking to resolve its relationship with the U.K. company and has weighed options that range from ending its wireless venture with Vodafone to a full merger of the two phone companies. Vodafone owns a 45 percent stake in the Verizon Wireless subsidiary which is is worth about $115 billion, according to analysts.


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