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    The European Central Bank has not set a deadline for Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena to find a buyer but wants to see precise steps in this direction, the lender's chief executive said on Thursday. Fabrizio Viola told reporters the bank did not have any suitors for now. The ECB wants "defined steps over time, without an excessive uncertainty" over the timeframe of a merger, Viola said.

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    Canadian auto-parts maker Magna International Inc (MGA) said on Thursday it will sell most of its vehicle-interiors operations to Spain's Grupo Antolin for about $525 million. The deal covers 36 manufacturing plants and about 12,000 employees in Europe, North America and Asia, the company said. The operations included in the agreement recorded about $2.4 billion in sales in 2014, Magna said.

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    Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said on Thursday her Liberal government would sell up to 60 percent of the province's electrical utility Hydro One, but would limit minority shareholders to 10 percent stakes. Canada's most populous province will continue to regulate electricity rates, Wynne said, and the proceeds from the sale will be used to fund transit and infrastructure.

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    The government of the Canadian province of Ontario will sell a 60 percent stake in provincially owned electrical utility Hydro One in an initial public offering, Canadian media reported on Thursday. The Toronto Star, citing unnamed sources, said Ontario will retain a 40 percent stake in the C$16 billion transmission utility and that minority shareholders will be limited to 10 percent stakes.

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    Mergers and acquisitions among generic pharmaceutical companies has become almost as popular as the drugs those companies produce. Generic companies have been consolidating for the last decade. Must Read: Warren Buffett's Top 10 Dividend Stocks.

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    General Electric's (GE) announcement last week that it would sell most of the real estate and financial services assets of GE Capital for $26.5 billion was greeted warmly by most proregulation observers in Washington as a sign that the legislation is working and has driven systemic risk from at least one corporate colossus. In the view of some experts, however, the deals simply shift the danger around.

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    Canadian auto parts maker Magna International Inc (MGA) said it would sell most of its interiors operations to Spain's Grupo Antolin for about $525 million. The deal includes 36 manufacturing plants and about 12,000 employees in Europe, North America and Asia, the company said. The operations included in the agreement recorded about $2.4 billion in sales in 2014, Magna said.

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    The owner of Ferrari buying a Bermudan reinsurer sounds like an unlikely trade even in a deals boom. But Italian conglomerate ExorEXO's $6.4 billion all-cash bid for PartnerRePRE, announced late Tuesday, is born of simple motives. Exor (EXOSF) is the listed holding company of the Agnelli family, which is best known for its 30% stake in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU), owner of Ferrari.

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    Germany's Wacker Chemie is stepping up preparations for a stock market listing of its silicon wafer business Siltronic and has mandated banks to organise the move, two people familiar with the deal said. Citi and Credit Suisse (CS) are coordinating the initial public offering of Siltronic which may take place later this year, they said. Wacker Chemie as well as the banks declined to comment.

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    Sweden's Ericsson, the world's biggest maker of mobile telecoms equipment, will probably have to expand its range of fixed line products to defend its turf following Nokia's (NOK) purchase of Alcatel-Lucent. As the Finnish and French firms combine, Ericsson will face a much stronger competitor with a broader product offering, bigger sales and R&D clout than itself.

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    Nokia will buy Alcatel-Lucent in an all-share deal that values its smaller French rival at 15.6 billion euros, building up its telecom equipment business to compete with market leader Ericsson. The deal will redefine a sector suffering weak growth prospects and pressure from low-cost Chinese players Huawei and ZTE.

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    PARIS, April 16 (Reuters) - European stocks were set for a steady open on Thursday, taking a breather from their recent sharp rally, with shares in automakers in focus after strong industry figures. Data showed on Thursday Europe's auto market recovery gained a firmer footing in March, with Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain all posting solid gains. At 0610 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, for Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were down 0.1 percent to up 0.2 percent. European stocks rallied on Wednesday, with the FTSEurofirst 300 hitting a level not seen since late 2000, after the European Central Bank said it remained committed to its full asset-buying programme to revive the euro zone economy. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0610 GMT: LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 2,106.63 0.51 % 10.79 NIKKEI 19885.77 0.08 % 16.01 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 515.46 1.11 % 5.66 EUR/USD 1.0685 0.01 % 0.0001 USD/JPY 119.28 0.13 % 0.1500 10-YR US TSY YLD 1.905 -- 0.01 10-YR BUND YLD 0.109 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,202.65 0.11 % $1.35 US CRUDE $56.26 -0.23 % -0.13 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia stocks follow global surge, dollar defensive > US STOCKS-Wall St ends higher as jitters about earnings and oil recede > Nikkei down as drugmakers, food firms retreat hopes > TREASURIES-Bonds steady after weak data, ECB purchases boost demand > FOREX-Aussie jumps on jobs data surprise; dollar nurses losses > PRECIOUS-Gold extends gains on softer dollar, sluggish U.S. data > METALS-London copper prices firm as weak US data drags on dollar > Brent crude hits 2015 highs as U.S. production slows COMPANY NEWS: AUTO MAKERS Europe's auto-market recovery gained a firmer footing in March, according to industry data published on Thursday, as mid-market brands bounced back and no-frills "crisis car" sales slowed. UBS Activist investor Knight Vinke said UBS needs to "radically" shrink and should look at spinning off or merging its investment bank, reviving its two-year criticism of the Swiss bank. AIRBUS The aerospace group said on Wednesday it will ask shareholders to approve an exceptional share buyback of up to 10 percent of its capital at its annual meeting on May 27. VOLKSWAGEN The steering committee of VW's supervisory board will likely meet by Friday to try to resolve a leadership crisis at the carmaker, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday. The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) believes Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn may have to leave after the carmaker's chairman publicly withdrew his confidence in the CEO, Handelsblatt reported on Wednesday. ZALANDO The online fashion retailer posted higher Q1 sales and profit, citing a "strong start" into the spring and summer season. HOLCIM Swiss cement maker Holcim said on Thursday it expects the new shares of its tie-up with France's Lafarge to be listed on exchanges in Zurich and Paris in early August. Eurocement Holding AG, the second-largest shareholder in Swiss cement maker Holcim Ltd, said on Wednesday it is nominating its owner Filaret Galchev for a position on the board of a planned tie-up between Holcim and France's Lafarge SA. SODEXO The French catering, facilities management and vouchers group kept its full-year goals after operating profit rose 8.6 percent in the first half, helped by cost cuts and new contracts in North and Latin America, and Australia. RENAULT The carmaker will hold an emergency board meeting in response to French government moves to tighten its grip on the carmaker and its alliance with Nissan, a company source with knowledge of the matter said. LAFARGE Holcim's second-largest shareholder Eurocement said it is nominating its owner Filaret Galchev for a position on the board of a planned tie-up between the Swiss cement maker and France's Lafarge. The proposal of Galchev in an emailed statement may signal that Eurocement, which holds a 10.8 percent stake in Holcim, will support the merger with Lafarge at next month's shareholder vote. ALCATEL Finnish telecoms equipment group Nokia plans to add some 500 research jobs in France on top of those already working for its takeover target Alcatel-Lucent as part of an undertaking on jobs given to French President Francois Hollande, Alcatel's boss said on Wednesday. CASINO French retailer Casino said growth slowed in the first quarter, reflecting a still lacklustre performance in France, despite price cuts there, while an economic slowdown in Brazil hurt the sales of its consumer electronics business. (Reporting by Blaise Robinson)

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    Alibaba (BABA) is injecting its online pharmacy business into an obscure Hong Kong-listed subsidiary. Euphoric investors might want to read the label before ingesting. Last year, Alibaba (BABA) and Yunfeng Capital Ltd., a private-equity firm set up by Alibaba (BABA) founder Jack Ma, together bought a 54% stake in the little-known company, then called Citic 21 CN, which manages data on pharmaceutical products.