* FTSE 100 gains 0.9 pct
* AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN – news) surges on report of Pfizer (NYSE: PFE – news) approach
* GlaxoSmithKline (Other OTC: GLAXF – news) jumps on asset swap with Novartis
(Updates with closing prices, adds technical detail)
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, April 22 (Reuters) – Corporate activity in the
pharmaceutical sector on Tuesday pushed Britain’s benchmark
stock index to a two-week high and to within sight of a peak for
Drugmaker AstraZeneca rose 4.7 percent, with trading
volumes in the stock more than three times its 90-day average,
after the Sunday Times reported a 60-billion-pound ($ 101
billion) approach from U.S. peer Pfizer.
Both companies declined to comment. Analysts at Citigroup (TLO: CIT-U.TI – news)
said in a research note they expected Pfizer (TLO: PF-U.TI – news) “to push
aggressively ahead with a second approach”, referring to the
reported rejection of the offer. Pfizer stock rose 1 percent.
GlaxoSmithKline rose 5.2 percent after an asset-swap
with Swiss peer Novartis (Xetra: NOT.DE – news) , which announced a
multi-billion dollar revamp. Shire (LSE: SHP.L – news) rose 7.6 percent on
hopes that sectoral takeover activity would spread.
“M&A activity shows a certain confidence on the part of the
executives of the companies. The AstraZeneca would be one of the
biggest deals ever done for a London-listed company,” Jasper
Lawler, market analyst at CMC Markets, said.
“It’s true to say that when deals like this come off, more
follow suit. People have put a quick bet in there (on Shire)
hoping that they could be the recipient of some other kind of
deal,” he said.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index closed up 0.9 percent,
or 56.51 points, at 6,681.76 points. The UK stock market had
been closed since Thursday for the long Easter weekend holiday.
The FTSE 100 hit a peak of 6,867 points in late January, its
highest level since early 2000 and is now less than 3 percent
below that level, having recovered from a slide driven by
concern over a slump in emerging markets economies and tension
between Russia and Western powers over Ukraine.
However, it has been stuck in a 200-point range for the last
six weeks. Tuesday’s move took the index to the top end of that
range, but analysts were cautious.
“We’re still in quite a wide range, and there hasn’t been
too much outside of the pharma sector to make us think that
we’ll break out of it soon,” Jeremy Batstone-Carr, analyst at
Charles Stanley (LSE: CAY.L – news) , said.
“(However), there’s nothing like a bit of M&A to excite
investors and coalesce interest in relation to the market
generally. It shouldn’t be taken as a sign of the top of the
The index finished below its intraday high – its highest
since April 4, and technical analysts said it was too early to
tell whether the challenge to the resistance area could be
sustained and if the index would break out of the range.
“The FTSE 100 cash index is posting a rebound but is
challenging the upper end of the short term trading range at
6,706,” Trading Central technical analyst Nicolas Suiffet said.
“It’s too early to turn bullish again. Only a clear break of
the resistance area 6,706/6,723 would reinstate a positive
bias,” he said.
($ 1 = 0.5951 British pounds)
(Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Louise
Ireland (Other OTC: IRLD – news) )