European shares drift lower, Colruyt knocked

Tue Jun 24, 2014 10:52am EDT

* FTSEurofirst 300 off 0.1 pct, retreats from 6-1/2 yr high

* Colruyt down; warns of tough year ahead after profit fall

* German Ifo falls more than expected

* Syngenta surges on report of Monsanto bid interest

By Tricia Wright

LONDON, June 24 (Reuters) - European shares lost ground on Tuesday, with Colruyt among the biggest fallers on downbeat earnings, while the broader market was unable to gain traction from new signs of corporate takeover activity.

Colruyt fell 3.6 percent to a 2-1/2 month low in brisk trade as the Belgian discount retailer warned of a difficult year ahead after posting a slight drop in profits.

"They have a good strategy but the market is really against them. Competitors are also focusing on volumes, with very low food inflation," Bank Degroof analyst Hans D'Haese said.

The Belgian supermarket landscape has been fiercely competitive over the past few quarters, also due to Dutch rival Ahold's Albert Heijn entering the market and German hard discounters Aldi and Lidl gaining ground.

Trading volume in Colruyt was robust, at 1-1/4 times its 90-day daily average.

The broader FTSEurofirst 300, meanwhile, had traded just over half of its average volume, with the index off 0.1 percent at 1,387.64 points by 1437 GMT, retreating from a 6-1/2 year high hit last week.

Signs of economic weakness in the region weighed on the market. Germany's Ifo index of business sentiment fell more than expected in June to its lowest this year.

Comments by Bank of England officials also made investors reluctant to place big bets on equities.

BoE Governor Mark Carney told British lawmakers markets had not adjusted enough to strong U.K. economic data, explaining why earlier this month he signalled interest rates could rise sooner than the markets expected.

BoE Deputy Governor Charlie Bean said Britain was gradually moving towards the point of tighter monetary policy, but the timing would depend on how the economy progresses from here.

Syngenta bucked the slightly weaker trend, rising 6.2 percent after a media report that the Swiss crop chemicals maker had been in talks about a $40 billion takeover by U.S. rival Monsanto Co..

A Syngenta spokesman declined to comment on the report and Monsanto was not immediately available for comment.

Investors reckoned on a pick-up in mergers and acquisition (M&A) activity ultimately winning through, keeping the region's stock markets buoyant.

"Our outlook for equity markets for the remainder of the year is positive. M&A has made a welcome return in recent months," said Mark Burgess, chief investment officer at Threadneedle Investments.

Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v

Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v

Today's European research round-up (Additional reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Philip Blenkinsop and Atul Prakash; Editing by Gareth Jones)