European stocks inched up on Wednesday as merger talks powered gains in French grocer Carrefour and Spain’s Telefonica, offsetting weakness in banking stocks on worries about extended lockdowns across the continent.
Carrefour shares hit their highest level since August 2019 after Canadian convenience-store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc said it had approached Europe’s biggest retailer to discuss a combination.
The stock was last up 8.6%, leading gains in Paris’ CAC 40, while shares in French rival Casino rose 3.1%.
Spanish telecom company Telefonica rose 7.9% after it agreed to sell its mobile phone masts in Europe and Latin America to U.S.-based telecom infrastructure operator American Towers for 7.7 billion euros ($9.41 billion) in cash.
Telecom stocks were the top sectoral gainers, up 1.4%.
The broader pan-European STOXX 600 index rose just 0.2% as investors took a pause after last week’s strong rally.