Europe shares close higher; BSkyB tumbles

European equities closed higher on Monday with significant gains from the healthcare sector, following last week's brief sell-off over concerns of the early reduction in the U.S. Federal Reserve's stimulus program.


The FTSEurofirst 300 Index provisionally closed up 0.3 percent to 1,298.66 points, although media stocks saw a sell-off after BT announced it was spending £897 million ($1.2 billion) for a three-year deal to show Champions League soccer from 2015 exclusively.

BT shares closed higher 0.45 percent, despite the company hitting back at claims that it had overpaid for the deal. Shares of BSkyB, which currently shares rights for the premium European soccer games, closed down 10.86 percent with ITV, the other rights holder, closing the day down 1.47 percent.

(Read More: BT defends soccer spending: 'We haven't overpaid')

European shares were buoyed by the healthcare sector. Spanish pharmaceutical firm Grifols provisionally closed up 4.8 percent after acquiring a blood transfusion testing unit from Novartis. British firm Shire closed the day higher by 0.89 percent after strengthening its portfolio in a $4.2 billion deal to acquire ViroPharma.

(Read more: Shire to pay $4.2 billion for rare disease firm ViroPharma)

'Taper' fears remain

The macroeconomic picture continued to loom over European markets, putting a cap on gains. Asian equity markets ended Monday on a mixed note as attention turned to debates over an early reduction in the Federal Reserve's stimulus program.

Data on Friday showed that the U.S. economy created 204,000 new jobs last month. The unexpectedly strong report sent the Dow to a new record high but also fueled speculation that the Fed may reduce its monthly asset purchases sooner rather than later.

U.S. stocks were mixed on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average extending its record rise, as Wall Street looked to earnings reports this week from retailers including Wal-Mart Stores and Macy's to get a read on consumer spending.

(Read More: Asia mixed on Fed taper fears; Philippine shares hit by storm)

In the Philippines, rescue and relief efforts are underway for the survivors of super Typhoon Haiyan. At least 10,000 people are thought to have died as the typhoon swept through the region.

In other news, Angela Merkel's conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD) have struck a deal on the contours of a European banking union under which a body attached to European finance ministers, not the European Commission, would decide when to close failing banks, according to a report by Reuters on Sunday.

In France, Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said that getting a triple-A rating was not a priority. In an interview with French television channel France 5 on Sunday, he said the markets had reacted by showing trust in the government's policy despite the Friday downgrade by rating agency Standard & Poor's to double-A.

RSA Insurance plunges

In other stocks news, shares of platinum producer Lonmin rose by 3.91 percent after it reported full-year results that beat forecasts, recovering from heavy losses last year.

Kabel Deutschland announced on Monday it had swung to a new loss in the last quarter due to charges relating to the takeover by Vodafone; shares still rose 0.63 percent.

Shares of U.K. general insurance company RSA Insurance plunged 10.51 percent after it suspended three executives in its Irish business arm over what it said were 'issues' in its claims unit.

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