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Major European Companies Report Mixed Earnings

European earnings failed to drive broader European markets higher, as disappointing numbers from bigger names and cautious guidance mostly pushed shares in reporting companies lower.

Deutsche Telekom reported 2007 operating earnings in line with both its targets and market expectations, which were down slightly due to restructuring costs.

The German company reiterated its 2008 outlook of flat earnings before certain items and a flat free cash flow. Shares were down 0.3 percent on the mixed news.

Shares in German pharmaceutical and chemical company Bayer were down 2.8 percent after it missed market expectations with a 79 percent fall in fourth-quarter net profit due to charges for the integration of Schering.

But the aspirin inventor was upbeat about 2008 and said its healthcare and agrochemicals units would drive earnings.

AXA also reported 2007 operating and net profit that missed analysts' expectations, knocking its shares down by 2.9 percent. The French insurer said it expected further growth in 2008 despite a tough business environment.

Staying in the insurance sector, Aviva's strong life insurance sales growth offset the slightly weaker general insurance result, which was impacted by floods in the UK, leading it to report a 1 percent rise in 2007 profit.

It also said it aims to double earnings per share by 2012, sending share higher by 4.4 percent.

British American Tobacco (BAT) beat analysts' forecasts with an 11 percent rise in full-year earnings, sending shares 1.8 percent higher.

The London-based cigarette maker made its second acquisition in a week, buying Skandinavisk Tobakskompagni's (ST) cigarettes for 2 billion pounds ($4 billion) Thursday. BAT agreed to buy Turkey's state-owned cigarette company Tekel last Friday.

Royal Bank of Scotland announced a 9 percent rise in underlying profit, meeting analysts' expectations and said it would raise its dividend by 10 percent.

RBS increased its writedown on assets impacted by the U.S. subprime housing crisis and credit crunch to 1.6 billion pounds ($3.2 billion).

Shares in UK services group Rentokil plummeted more than 23 percent after it issued a second profit warning for 2008 and announced its chairman would be stepping down. The pest control group said adjusted profit before tax rose 1.1 percent in 2007, missing analysts' expectations.

And in Spain, Telefonica reported a 42.9 percent increase in 2007 net profit on continuing growth in the mobile and Latin American markets.

While construction to energy company Acciona also reported a successful 2007 profit, which rose by 46.6 percent and beat analysts' forecasts, boosted by the recent acquisition of Endesa.

-- Reuters contributed to this report

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