European markets closed higher on Friday after three consecutive sessions of losses, as chipmakers gained on Intel's elevated sales outlook.
Swiss International Airlines surged more than 19 percent on reports of a merger agreement with Lufthansa, even though the Swiss company downplayed the reports.
The German DAX Xetra 30 index finished up 0.5 percent to 4,360, while France's CAC 40 index added 0.3 percent to 4,049. In London, the FTSE 100-share index closed up 19.9 points, or 0.4 percent, at 4,982.
Semiconductor chip companies in Europe rose as Intel Corp, the world's largest chipmaker, said first-quarter sales would be near the high end of its previous forecasts, and lifted its target for gross margins.
German memory chip maker Infineon Technologies AG added 0.9 percent in late trading, giving back some earlier gains, while mobile phone chip maker STMicroelectronics NV gained 0.3 percent.
Dutch chip equipment maker ASML Holdings NV abandoned early gains and fell 0.2 percent toward the end of trading.
Aixtron jumped 11 percent as the chip equipment maker said revenue for last year came in at around 140 million euros (US$188 million), higher than its forecast. Its net profit of 7 million euros was also ahead of its previous guidance.
Swiss International Airlines soared more than 19 percent after a report in the Handelsblatt newspaper said the chairmen of Swiss International and Lufthansa have agreed on a merger in principle.
Swiss CEO Christoph Franz, however, said on Friday that the company needs to solve its financial headaches before hooking up with another carrier.
Swiss also posted a net loss of 140 million Swiss francs (US$118 million) for last year, compared with a loss of SF687 million in 2003 -- audited results that were in line with unaudited figures issued last month.
"In our opinion the timing for a takeover is right at present," SES Research said. "Switzerland is too small a market for Swiss in its current dimensions. A takeover would not only mitigate the contention [with Lufthansa] but would also mean additional synergies."
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