Europe shares flat, but banks weigh after HBOS

LONDON - European shares hovered either side of unchanged on Thursday, as an uncertain financial outlook weighed on banks after HBOS warned of a 1 billion pound ($1.96 billion) writedown in its first half.

By (Reuters)

Published: Thu 19 Jun 2008, 3:54 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 1:11 PM

By 0920 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was flat at 1,251.34 points. It reversed earlier losses after British retail sales rose at a record pace in May, which also lifted the FTSE 100.

Banks were the biggest losers, with HBOS falling 5.4 percent and Royal Bank of Scotland slipping nearly 2 percent. UBS lost 2.5 percent, Banco Santander fell 0.8 percent and Deutsche Bank

slipped 1.8 percent.

‘They now seem to be continuously coming out with more bad news ... The market won't take it as 'phew the problems are out of the way',’ said Justin Urquhart Stewart, a director at Seven Investment Management.

‘In a weak market coming from a bad New York and a bad Japan (session), it will put a nasty malaise over the market.’

In merger news, Spain's biggest lender, Santander, was considering a takeover bid for Allianz's Dresdner Bank, three sources familiar with the situation told Reuters.

Deutsche Bank was also conducting a detailed examination of Dresdner's business with a view to making an offer to buy it, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Investors would continue to focus on the interest rate outlook after Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said on Wednesday it was unclear where interest rates would have to go to get inflation back to the bank's 2 percent target but the BoE would take whatever action was needed.


HBOS, Britain's biggest mortgage lender, warned higher writedowns would hit first-half performance as a sharper fall in house prices put pressure on bad debts, even though it confirmed it was trading in line with expectations.

‘The credit quality is the issue. The cautions on margin recovery for next year and beyond ... The statement reads incredibly in line but that still doesn't take away the fundamentals of the sector, does it?’ a trader said.

Concern about the outlook for the British property market and HBOS' exposure to the problems in the credit markets have stripped almost 60 percent off the company's shares this year.

Oil shares were among the top gainers as the price of crude

held above $136 a barrel. Total was up 2.6 percent, Royal Dutch Shell was up 0.2 percent and BP gained 1.4 percent.

GDF Suez, the French energy group to be created next month, would join a bid for Spain's Gas Natural utility if asked by its Spanish partner La Caixa, the Catalan bank, the Financial Times said.

Miners gained on the back of firm metals prices, with BHP Billiton rising 1 percent, Rio Tinto up 0.9 percent and Lonmin gaining 1.3 percent.

Other gainers included Vodafone, which edged up 0.3 percent after the Financial Times said the company had pulled out of the auction for Italy's Tiscali.

Vodafone was not immediately available for comment.

Tiscali shares were down 3.4 percent, having fallen earlier to their lowest since early April.

Britain's Cadbury Plc, the world's biggest confectionery group, said its second-quarter sales growth was likely to be modestly higher than the 7 percent growth in the first quarter. Cadbury shares were up 0.4 percent.

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