MILAN/FRANKFURT: European stocks inched lower on Monday as French retailer Carrefour tumbled after ending 16.2 billion euro ($19.57 billion) merger talks with Alimentation Couche-Tard, with worries about a slow economic recovery keeping investors on edge.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 0.1% after snapping a four-week winning run on Friday, with losses in oil and utilities offset by gains in technology stocks.
Data showing a better-than-expected quarterly rebound in China’s economy failed to excite investors who feared that tight coronavirus restrictions and possible challenges to vaccine supplies in continent could dent growth in the first quarter.
A slide in oil prices dragged down stocks of BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Total.
Carrefour fell 5.6% after its takeover talks with Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard failed and the two sides decided to work on partnership opportunities.
The stock has erased almost all its gains since the deal was announced last week. The proposed merger had faced strong opposition from the French government, which cited food security as the main concern. Shares in carmaker Stellantis jumped 5.7% in their first day of trading in Milan on the completion of the $52 billion merger between Fiat Chrysler and PSA. In other M&A-driven moves, French waste and water management company Suez, which is fighting a takeover approach from arch-rival Veolia rose 2.8%, after it said it had received an alternative proposal from investment firms Ardian and Global Infrastructure Partners.
Shares in Veolia fell 3.6%.
Dutch paints and coatings maker Akzo Nobel fell 2.9% as it entered the race to buy Finnish peer Tikkurila with an offer 13% higher than a bid from US rival PPG Industries. German chipmaker Infineon rose 3.9% after Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock to “buy”, boosting the tech sector.
“With the great majority of M&A speculation set to disappear on Carrefour today, the attention will refocus on the group’s Q4 performance,” equity analysts at Bryan Garnier wrote in a note.
Investors also kept an eye on political developments in Rome as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte faces two days of parliamentary votes that will decide if his fragile coalition can cling to power.