M&A fever helps European stocks rally
* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.4 pct, Euro STOXX 50 up 0.3 pct
* Elan surges after $8.6 bln takeover offer from Perrigo
* Media stocks jump after Publicis-Omnicom merger plan
PARIS, July 29 (Reuters) - European stocks rose on Monday as a flurry of big mergers and acquisitions deals boosted sentiment and helped the market bounce back after a two-session dip.
Shares in Irish drugmaker Elan jumped 8.3 percent after U.S. peer Perrigo agreed to buy the firm for $8.6 billion, sparking a rally in health care stocks, with Shire up 2.1 percent and AstraZeneca up 1.2 percent.
Media shares also surged, boosted by a merger plan between Publicis and Omnicom unveiled over the weekend, in a deal worth $35.1 billion.
France's Havas soared 5.7 percent and UK's WPP added 1.7 percent. Publicis shares were halted on Monday.
At 0802 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.4 percent at 1,209.40 points, after losing about 0.8 percent in two sessions. The benchmark index has risen 9 percent since late June.
Also among the biggest gainers on Monday, France's Essilor , an ophthalmic optics company, rose 4.1 percent after buying a 51 percent stake in photochromic lens unit Transitions Optical from PPG Industries Inc for $1.73 billion.
The media and health care sectors have outperformed the market this year, with the STOXX Europe 600 media index up 17 percent and the STOXX Europe 600 health care index up 14.4 percent, while the FTSEurofirst 300 is up 6.9 percent.
"These big M&A deals are a big boost for the market, although the buzz is usually short-lived, so I remain relatively cautious at this point," said Philippe de Vandiere, analyst at Altedia Investment Consulting, in Paris.
"The market has risen quite a lot already and even though we didn't really have nasty surprises in earnings, there's no big catalyst seen ahead, and we see investors turning more defensive."
On the earnings front, French food group Danone gained 3.1 percent after saying sales growth accelerated in the second quarter, and keeping its full-year 2013 profit and sales outlook.
Siemens rose 1.5 percent. The German engineering conglomerate said its supervisory board will decide on the early departure of its chief executive on July 31.
Around Europe, UK's FTSE 100 index was up 0.6 percent, Germany's DAX index up 0.8 percent, and France's CAC 40 up 0.5 percent. The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index was up 0.3 percent at 2,748.96.
"I'm quite positive, the market goes up slowly with some consolidation moves happening during the session," TradingSat analyst Alexandre Tixier said.
"Trading volumes remain brisk, which is a sign of strong buying appetite at this point. Our exposure to equities is at 80 percent right now."
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