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Financial Times: Oil groups lead European equities higher: Royal Dutch Shell settled claims from investors

By Neil Dennis
Published: April 11 2007 09:17 | Last updated: April 11 2007 09:17

European equity markets were a little higher on Wednesday, with oil companies picking up from recent weakness after Royal Dutch Shell settled claims from investors over its reserves restatement.

In early trade, the FTSE Eurofirst 300 was 0.2 per cent higher at 1,550.77, Frankfurt was flat at 7,166.60, while the CAC 40 in Paris gained slightly to 5,767.35 and London’s FTSE 100 was little changed at 6,418.2.

The Eurofirst 300 was just 2 points shy of the six-year high hit in late February, before equity markets suffered a sharp, three-week correction.

Oil companies rallied following recent weakness related to a sharp fall in crude prices. Royal Dutch Shell said it was to pay $352.6m, plus administrative costs, to settle claims lodged by European and other non-US investors related to the company’s shock reserves downgrade in 2004.

The company said it had agreed to the settlement ”without admitting any wrongdoing”. Relief that the company had now put the episode behind it helped the shares rally 0.9 per cent to €25.04.

Elsewhere, France’s Total gained 0.9 per cent to €52.99, Austria’s OMV added 1.3 per cent to €46.94 and Norway’s Statoil climbed 0.9 per cent to NKr169.

Swedish fashion retailer Hennes & Mauritz climbed 1.4 per cent to SKr430 after the company said it could boost efficiency and maintain the gross profit margin of nearly 59 per cent hit in its first financial quarter ended in February.

French fashion group PPR, fell 2.1 per cent to €130.22 following Tuesday’s announcement it was bidding $7.1bn (€5.3bn) for German sportswear maker Puma.

JPMorgan cut its rating on PPR from ”overweight” to ”neutral” and lowered its price target from €130 to €124 saying the acquisition was logical, but valuations and debt levels were stretched. Shares in Puma added 1.6 per cent to €349.50.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007


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