EUROPE MARKETS: Ryanair Shines In Downbeat European Market

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) -- Ryanair Holdings PLC was among top advancers in an otherwise weak European stock market on Monday, after Europe's largest discount airline reported a 152% surge in first-quarter profit.

   Shares of the carrier  (RYAAY)    climbed 2.5%, marking the first rise in four days.

The solid quarterly report from Ryanair comes after a rough year marked by surprise profit warnings. The airliner now promised it would pay a special dividend of 520 million euros ($698 million), or 37.50 euro cents per share.

Rebecca O'Keeffe, head of investment at stockbroker Interactive Investor, cautioned in a note, however, that "the airline industry is more exposed to geopolitical risk than many sectors, so considerable caveats are included in their forecast numbers."

Rival budget airline easyJet PLC added 0.9%, after Citigroup lifted the shares to buy from neutral.

Also in London, Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC put on 2.7% after the company said it will pursue a spinoff of its pharmaceutical unit to focus more on its core consumer health and hygiene business.

The gains weren't enough, however, to lift the U.K.'sFTSE 100 index, which ended down by 0.1% at 6,788.07.

Elsewhere, most national benchmarks fell after weak U.S. housing sales pushed down U.S. markets. Germany's DAX 30 index dropped 0.5% to 9,598.17, while Italy's FTSE MIB index lost 0.6% to 20,939.08. The Stoxx Europe 600 index fell 0.2% to close at 341.34.

But France's CAC 40 index climbed 0.3% to 4,344.77. The Paris benchmark was partly buoyed by dairy maker Danone SA , which added 0.9% after news it is in talks with U.S. pharmaceutical group Hospira Inc. (HSP) to sell its medical nutrition business. The deal could be worth $5 billion and would mark the latest transaction in a wave of deals designed to sidestep U.S. corporate taxes.

Publicis Groupe SA gave up 3% in France after Citigroup downgraded the advertising company to sell from neutral.

Outside the main indexes in Europe, shares of Bankia SA put on 1.3% after the Spanish lender said second-quarter net profit nearly doubled compared with a year earlier as loan losses fell.

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This article appears in: Commodities

Referenced Stocks: 3RB , BKIA , BN , C , DANOY

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