(Reuters) – European shares rose on Monday as a possible Fiat Chrysler-Renault merger thrust auto stocks higher, while investors assessed the results of the EU parliament elections where pro-European parties are expected to hold on to two-thirds of seats.
The pan-European STOXX 600 was up 0.5% by 0715 GMT with most indices inching higher but trading volumes were thin with UK, US markets closed for market holidays.
The auto sector rose 2.5%, outperforming all other sectors, as Italian-American carmaker Fiat Chrysler confirmed it made a “transformative merger” proposal to French peer Renault in a deal which would create the world’s third-biggest carmaker and help address some of the weaknesses in both companies.
The proposed deal would be structured as a 50-50 ownership through a Dutch holding company. Shares of both companies were at top of the STOXX 600, up more than 15% each.
Meanwhile, shares of German car maker Volkswagen rose 2% after a German paper reported its intention to jointly build up battery cell production in Salzgitter with Swedish startup Northvolt.
In a rather quiet day for company news investors focused on the European Parliamentary elections where parties committed to strengthening the European Union held on to two-thirds of seats although far-right and nationalist opponents also saw strong gains.
The two-party “grand coalition” of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists (S&D) losing their combined majority amid an increase in support for liberals, the Greens and nationalists means policymaking in the EU may become more complex.
In Asia, stocks inched up but remained near four-month lows on Monday amid concerns about U.S.-China tensions with U.S. President Donald Trump saying he was ‘not yet ready’ to make a deal with China.
The trade war escalation this month has hit the pan-European STOXX 600 which is looking at its first monthly decline for 2019 since a sell-off at the end of last year that knocked 15% off the index.
Hans Rausing, the Swedish billionaire who helped build food packaging company Tetra Pak into a global giant, has died aged 93.
The invention of the now more common cube-shaped cartons and aseptic technology to preserve the contents helped Tetra Pak replace heavier, breakable glass bottles in a growing number of markets.
In the 1980s the Rausing brothers moved to the UK in order to avoid the higher rate of tax in their home country and Hans Rausing shot to the top of the UK’s rich list.
After he left the family firm in 1995, Mr Rausing, who lived in Wadhurst, East Sussex, devoted part of his time to philanthropy. More than £1bn was given to causes including innovation and research in medicine, human rights, culture and the environment, his family said.
In 2006 he was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) for his philanthropic activities.
His three children said in a joint statement: “Our father was an extraordinary man, achieving so many things in his long and distinguished career as entrepreneur and industrialist, and then as a philanthropist supporting multiple charities and foundations.
“We are very proud of that, but most of all we will cherish our fond memories of him as a loving father and devoted family man.”
His son, Hans Kristian Rausing, was sentenced in 2012 for delaying the lawful and decent burial of his wife.
The charge came after police discovered the decomposing body of Eva Rausing, 48, at the couple’s home in Belgravia, central London.
Police found the mother-of-four, who had been dead for two months, under a pile of clothing and bin bags during a police search following Hans Kristian Rausing’s arrest on suspicion of drugs possession.
The couple had fought a public battle against drug addiction after meeting in a rehabilitation centre in the 1980s.