FTSE lifted by pharma firms after Pfizer deal falls apart

LONDON (Reuters) - Pharmaceuticals companies helped Britain's top share index to move higher on Wednesday as Pfizer PFE.N pulled out of a deal for Allergan AGE.N, prompting speculation over other merger and acquisition activity in the sector.

A man shelters under an umbrella as he walks past the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain August 24, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer terminated its $160 billion agreement to acquire Botox maker Allergan in a major victory for U.S. President Barack Obama’s drive to thwart tax-dodging corporate mergers.

The news lifted shares in Shire SHP.L and AstraZeneca AZN.L by 5.2 percent and 4.5 percent respectively, the top gainers on Britain's FTSE 100.

While it is unclear the extent to which a bid from Pfizer for a UK-listed drugmaker would fall foul of new U.S. Treasury rules to curb so-called tax inversion deals, traders said the sector was rallying on the possibility that British pharma companies might be back in play.

“The possibility now is that Pfizer goes shopping again, and you might be prepared to develop a case that maybe a firm like Shire becomes the bid target,” said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG.

“The implications of the new rules would have to be worked out, but if you’ve got cash sloshing around the sector, people are wondering who will benefit.”

Several broker notes, including one from Credit Suisse, said Shire’s bid for Baxalta is likely go ahead despite the new ruling.

“It looks as though Shire will still be able to move forward with the Baxalta deal despite the rules,” Beauchamp added.

The FTSE 100 was up 70.40 points, or 1.2 percent at 6,161.63 points at its close, with healthcare stocks adding about 13 points to the index.

Airlines were the biggest fallers, led lower by easyJet EZJ.L. The budget airline fell 3 percent after the release of its latest passenger statistics.

Traders said the figures showed that the company was underperforming the likes of Ryanair RYA.I, which produced stronger figures last month.

“Budget airline easyJet’s latest figures disappointed investors,” AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould said in a note.

“Passenger numbers rose in March but the load factor fell after the airline was forced to cancel hundreds of flights, principally due to strike action in France.”

British Airways owner IAG ICAG.L was down 2.6 percent.

Miner Glencore GLEN.L also fell, down 1.2 percent after agreeing to sell 40 percent of its agricultural business to Canada's state pension fund for $2.5 billion in a move to cut debt.

“The more assets Glencore disposes of, the more shareholders will begin to weigh up the benefits to the balance sheet versus the negatives of lost future revenue,” Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC Markets, said in a note.

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Mike Dolan, Markets Editor EMEA.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by David Goodman