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Europe: Shares dip as Air Liquide loses steam

Air Liquide Chairman and CEO Benoit Potier speaks during a press conference in Paris on Nov 18, 2015. France's Air Liquide announced that it will acquire Airgas of the United States for $13.4 billion.

[LONDON] European shares fell on Wednesday, retreating from solid gains in the previous session, with French industrial gas company Air Liquide slipping after announcing an expensive-looking acquisition.

There appeared to be limited market reaction to news that two suspects had died during a police raid in Paris in the wake of last week's attacks. Some European travel and leisure stocks lost ground but they were in line with the overall European market. "The indices are treading water today ... there seems to be a little bit of trepidation at the moment because of what's been going on in Paris this morning and overnight," said Augustin Eden, research analyst at Accendo Markets.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which rose 2.6 per cent in the previous session, was down 0.2 per cent at the close while the euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index closed down 0.6 per cent.

Air Liquide dropped 7.4 per cent after the company announced a US$13.4 billion deal to buy US peer Airgas. "The share price goes down, because investors get spooked by the prospect of a lot of money leaving the company's bank account," said Eden of Accendo Markets.

In a research note, UBS kept a "sell" rating on Air Liquide's shares and described the Airgas deal as "pricey", with Air Liquide's offer price representing a premium of 50.6 per cent to Airgas's one-month average share price.

The European travel and leisure sector was down 0.4 per cent.

An international soccer match was called off in Germany on Tuesday after a security alert and two Air France flights from the United States were diverted. Air France KLM was down 0.5 per cent.

Traders pointed to a rally in Russia-exposed stocks after Russia and France conducted air strikes in Syria.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and France's President Francois Hollande are to meet in Moscow next week, with investors hopeful that a thaw in relations between the West and Russia might mean that sanctions are lifted.

Retailer Metro was up 2.4 per cent, while pharmaceutical company Stada rose 2.8 per cent.

Nearly all the companies on the pan-European STOXX 600 index have reported their third-quarter results, with 51 per cent beating or meeting market expectations, while 49 per cent missed market forecasts.

Expectations for more monetary stimulus from the European Central Bank next month has led some investors to expect further gains for European stocks and the FTSEurofirst is still up nearly 10 per cent since the start of 2015.

Investors also pointed to US FOMC minutes, due at 1900 GMT, as being able to provide clues as to the timing of a Federal Reserve Rate hike.

"We've got the minutes coming out from the FOMC, so we're expecting to see light trading throughout the rest of the day,"Jonathan Roy, advisory investment manager at Charles Hanover Investments, said. "However, the language and the tone of tonight's minutes are going to be potentially quite influential for the overall market going forward."