(Repeats to widen distribution)
* Atos tops STOXX 600 on securing funds for turnaround plan
* UniCredit jumps over improved guidance after solid Q2
* Adidas slides after outlook cut
July 27 (Reuters) - European shares scaled near seven-week
highs on Wednesday as a string of strong results from companies
including Russia-exposed lender UniCredit and Britain's Smurfit
Kappa provided some comfort in an otherwise gloomy environment.
The STOXX 600 index closed 0.5% higher, with shares
of French IT consulting firm Atos surging 16.2% to top
the index on securing financing for a turnaround plan.
UniCredit gained 8.6% after it raised its 2022
outlook and moved ahead with a proposed share buyback it had put
on hold, helping Italy's MIB index outperform its peers
with a 1.5% climb.
Sentiment also got a lift after an upbeat outlook from
Microsoft Corp and strong ad sales growth by Google
parent Alphabet Inc overnight, with analysts also
pointing out that a lot of disappointment in terms of earnings
were already baked into valuations.
"You can argue that much of it was, because through the
second quarter we have had a big de-rating pretty much across
all markets, there was some degree of disappointment priced in,"
said Ian Williams, economist and strategist at Peel Hunt.
"It feels maybe now investors are assessing the company
updates more on stock by stock basis against the background of
concerns about growth, European gas supply and how much
tightening the central banks are going to do to try and check
off inflationary pressures."
Second-quarter earnings for companies that are part of the
STOXX 600 are expected to increase 23.1% from a year earlier,
according to Refinitiv. Of the 35% that have reported so far,
nearly 60% have topped estimates.
Russia delivered less gas to Europe in a further escalation
of an energy stand-off between Moscow and the European Union
that will make it harder, and costlier, for the bloc to fill up
storage ahead of the winter heating season.
A focus was also on the U.S. Federal Reserve's interest rate
hike plans, with markets widely expecting a 75 basis points
increase. A statement from the U.S. central bank is due at 1800
GMT, followed by Fed Chair Jerome Powell's news conference.
The travel and leisure sector rose 3%, getting a
boost from positive comments from Wizz Air.
The low-cost airline's shares jumped 10.4% after its
quarterly revenue more than quadrupled and it said demand for
travel was underpinning higher ticket prices.
French payment company Worldline climbed 13.8% on
upbeat first-half results.
Smurfit Kappa added 5.5% after Europe's largest
paper packaging producer posted a 50% jump in first-half core
profit and raised its interim dividend.
Miner Rio Tinto slipped 0.7% after a drop in
first-half profit, while Adidas slid 5.1% after
cutting its 2022 earnings target, blaming a slower-than-expected
recovery in China from pandemic restrictions.
(Reporting by Susan Mathew and Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing
by Shounak Dasgupta and Jonathan Oatis)