Banking stocks were slightly lower in early afternoon trade on Thursday as the Italian state is poised to rescue Monte dei Paschi di Siena with a 20 billion euro aid package and a plan to force losses on bondholders. This follows the bank's admission on Wednesday evening that its hoped-for private 5 billion-euro ($5.2 billion) recapitalization had failed.
The world's oldest bank has struggled for a sustained period of time yet its problems were exacerbated further by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's referendum defeat. BMPS shares slumped to their lowest ever share price on Thursday and were 6 percent lower at the close.
Switzerland's Actelion was among the top performers on Thursday, up more than 4 percent after overnight news that it had officially entered exclusive negotiations with U.S. peer Johnson & Johnson. France's Sanofi, seen as another possible contender for an Actelion buyout, also opened higher, gaining more than one percent out of the gates.
Nokia had hit the bottom of the list of key European stocks in early trade, losing 4.5 percent, following Wednesday's news it is set to sue Apple for patent infringement.
Mediaset then plunged below Nokia on Thursday to become the worst performing firm on the pan-European list after Italy's industry minister declared his unhappiness with Vivendi's aggressive stake building in the Italian television broadcaster. The minister stopped short of stating he and the government would attempt to block the deal altogether, however, shares fell 12 percent on the news.
In the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the broader S&P500 were trading lower, down 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent respectively.