European markets tread water as Carlyle swoops for UK pharma company

Albuterol sulfate inhaler, commonly used in the treatment of asthma as a reduce inhaler for acute asthma attack, on a red and white checkered surface, San Ramon, California, September 3, 2019. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Sipa USA)

Vectura works on inhaler technology. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Sipa USA/PA

European stock markets were largely flat on Wednesday as one analyst said investors were stuck in a “holding pattern”.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) closed flat in London while the CAC 40 (^FCHI) in Paris and Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) were both left where they started the day.

The DAX had reached a record high on Tuesday thanks to strong business confidence data and remained close to those levels.

Analysts said momentum was lacking after a bank holiday for many European nations at the start of the week and with another national holiday looming in Britain next Monday.

“It seems that the stock market is more of in a holding pattern,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Avatrade. “Bulls are trying their best to keep the momentum going. However, they are finding it hard to push the prices back towards their record price level.”

Michael Brown, senior market analyst at Caxton, said markets had been in “second gear” so far this week. That trend looked set to continue thanks to a relatively bare calendar for data releases on Wednesday.

The London market saw some action as UK pharmaceuticals group Vectura (VEC.L) announced a takeover bid from private equity group Carlyle. Carlyle has agreed to pay £958m ($ 1.4bn) for Vectura, which makes inhaled drugs and other treatments. The 136p a share bid represents a 27% premium to Tuesday’s closing price. Shares surged as much as 33.7%.

Shares in Vectura surged on news of the Carlyle bid. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK

Shares in Vectura surged on news of the Carlyle bid. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK

Shares in Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) jumped 8.5% in London despite the iconic retailer reporting a £200m loss for 2020. M&S reported a strong start to the new trading year and said it was targeting profits of up to £350m this year despite Brexit-related costs.

Wall Street staged a mild recovery after closing in the red on Tuesday. The S&P 500 (^GSPC) was up 0.3% by the time Europe closed, while the Dow (^DJI) was up 0.2%, and the Nasdaq (^IXIC) gained 0.6%. 

Markets were buoyed by news of a blockbuster deal between Amazon (AMZN) and MGM. Amazon has agreed to buy the film studio behind James Bond for $ 8.45bn. Amazon’s stock rallied 1% on news of the deal.

Asian markets booked modest gains overnight. Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) and the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) both rose a third of a percent and the Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) rallied 0.9%. South Korea’s KOSPI (^KS11) dipped 0.1%.

Watch: What are SPACs?