Saint-Gobain Leads Europe Higher

European equity markets moved higher by mid-morning on Tuesday, helped by strength in the construction and leisure goods sectors, and following overnight gains on Wall Street and in Asia.

The FTSE Eurofirst 300 rose 7.1 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 1,491.36 while the German Xetra Dax gained 43.2 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 6,651.49 and the French CAC 40 added 37.5 points, or 0.7 per cent, at 5,566.10.

On Tuesday, ABN Amro upgraded its recommendation from "hold" to "buy" and set a price target of €81. Paul Roger said a radical overhaul of Saint-Gobain's portfolio could improve returns and drive a re-rating for the sahres. Mr Roger suggested Saint-Gobain could sell its pipe, packaging, flat glass and high performance materials businesses for €20bn and use the proceeds to return €4bn to shareholders, repay €4bn in dent and to invest €12bn in its interior solutions/distribution markets.

Beiersdorf fell 1.6 per cent to €48.78 on profit taking after the maker of Nivea skin cream reported a 7 per cent increase in full-year sales in 2006,

Aegon rose 4 per cent to 15.02, helped by an upgrade from "neutral" to "buy" by Merrill Lynch which set a price target of €18.40. Aegon significantly underperformed the insurance sector and the wider European market last year but David Nisbet said it was time to consider investing as the valuation was too low and operational performance would improve with the company aiming to double new business by 2010.

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