European shares off to steady start on M&A, ECB speculation
* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.1, Euro STOXX 50 flat
* ITV up on Liberty bid speculation
* Novartis rallies on heart failure drug's prospects
* Investors weigh ECB stimulus bet against geopolitical woes
By Francesco Canepa
LONDON, Sept 1 (Reuters) - European shares kicked off September on a flat note as investors weighed mergers and acquisitions speculation and expectations of new monetary largesse in Europe against tensions in Ukraine and weak economic data out of China.
British broadcaster ITV rose 1.9 percent after the Telegraph reported Liberty Global Plc was canvassing support from major ITV shareholders following its acquisition of a 6.4 percent stake, raising speculation of a full takeover bid.
"Liberty has a 6 percent stake, arrived in Europe last year wanting to buy everything and have followed through on very little," Justin Haque, a broker a Hobart Capital Markets, said.
"ITV is on a cheap (multiple and) ... a clear recovery trajectory."
The stock was among top gainers on the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, which was up 0.1 percent at 1,375.80 points by 0719 GMT. The euro zone Euro STOXX 50 was flat at 3,172.65.
Novartis was the top riser on the index, up 3 percent, on bets a new medicine from the Swiss drugs group could replace drugs that have been central to treating heart failure for a quarter of century, after proving remarkably effective in reducing deaths in a keenly awaited study.
Investors were weighing speculation the European Central Bank may announce new stimulus measures against worries about weak Chinese PMI data and any escalation between Russia and the West over Ukraine.
"At least for now quantitative easing hopes seems to trump absolutely everything including sharply escalating tensions in Ukraine and weak Chinese PMI figures," Markus Huber, a trader at Peregrine & Black, said.
"Still, in markets things like these can change very quickly and any sudden worsening of the situation in eastern Ukraine can push geopolitics quickly to the forefront again."
Trading volume was likely to be thin on Monday, with the U.S. market shut for a national holiday.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today's European research round-up
(Reporting By Francesco Canepa; Editing by Alison Williams)