Morning business round-up: European shares fall

What made the business news in Asia and Europe this morning? Here's our daily business round-up:

European stock markets have fallen after weak manufacturing data and political uncertainty in France and the Netherlands hit investor confidence.

Germany's Dax index was down 2.5% while France's Cac 40 and the UK's FTSE 100 were about 1.5% lower.

On Sunday, President Nicolas Sarkozy narrowly lost to socialist rival Francois Hollande in the first round of France's presidential election, and collapse of budget talks in the Netherlands added to market nerves.

The closely-watched Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) survey suggested manufacturing activity in Germany fell to an almost three-year low of 46.3 in April. Any figure below 50 suggests contraction.

Figures for the wider economy, both in Germany, France and the wider eurozone, also showed a deeper contraction.

China's manufacturing activity slowed less quickly in April than the previous month, a preliminary HSBC survey has showed.

The HSBC Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) rose to 49.1 from 48.3 in March easing concerns of a sharp slowdown in China's economy.

There have been fears that slowing growth in key markets such as the US and eurozone may hurt China's economy.

It has been a busy day for company takeovers. Food giant Nestle has announced a deal to buy children's food maker Pfizer Nutrition for $11.85bn (£7.35bn).

Nestle, the world's biggest food group, said its new acquisition was a "perfect complement" to its existing infant food business.

It said it expected sales at Pfizer Nutrition, 85% of which are in emerging markets, to be $2.4bn this year.

And in another deal, Vodafone has agreed to buy Cable & Wireless Worldwide (C&WW) in a deal valuing the firm at just over £1bn.

Vodafone was left as C&WW's only suitor after India's Tata Communications ended its interest in the firm last week.

The takeover will add a UK fixed-line network to Vodafone's existing mobile network.

Dutch group Philips Electronics has reported a sharp rise in profits, thanks in part to improved sales at its healthcare division.

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Net profit for the first three months of the year was 248m euros ($327m; £203m), a rise of 80% on a year ago. Sales rose almost 7% to 5.6bn euros.

Honda Motors has said it will add a new car assembly line and build a new engine factory in China to cater for growing demand in the country.

The Japanese carmaker says it plans to invest a total of 3.56bn yuan ($560m; £350m) to expand its operations.

The new assembly line will have an initial capacity of 120,000 units per year, which will be doubled over time.

Hong Kong's securities regulator has fined a brokerage firm and revoked its corporate finance licence as it seeks to implement tighter control over share sales.

Mega Capital (Asia) has been fined HK$42m ($5.4m; £3.4m) for "inadequate and sub-standard" diligence work and "failure to act independently". Mega Capital has denied the charges.

The firm was the sole adviser to Hontex International, which had raised HK$1bn via a share sale in 2009.

The latest Business Daily podcast considers why the IMF needs extra funding.

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