* FTSEurofirst 300 index steadies in late trading
* Iliad, Bouygues up on sector consolidation hopes
* Miners slip on global growth concerns
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, June 12 European equities steadied near
recent multi-year highs on Thursday as a rally in some telecom
stocks on merger hopes in the sector was offset by a sharp
decline in mining shares driven by global growth concerns.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares
was up flat at 1,391.76 points by 1345 GMT, hovering just below
this week's 6-1/2-year high.
However, Iliad rose 6.3 percent, the top gainer on
the FTSEurofirst index, and Bouygues advanced 5.3
percent on expectations of more consolidation in the French
Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg said on Thursday the
government still wants to reduce the number of mobile telecom
operators in France to three from four to bring an end to the
"destructive spiral" of falling prices.
"You have seen signs of consolidation and we have got some
more this morning. Consolidation is a good thing for the sector
as it improves their market power and pricing, which has been a
key issue holding back earnings in the sector," Macquarie
strategist Daniel McCormack said.
"The trend could extend beyond telecoms as a lot of European
corporates are pretty cashed up and they could be looking for
opportunities to buy other companies."
However, gains in some shares were capped by a sharp decline
in mining shares related to concerns about global economic
forecasts and a decline in copper prices towards one-month lows.
The World Bank trimmed its global growth forecast this week,
saying a confluence of events - from the Ukraine crisis to
unusually cold weather in the United States - dampened economic
expansion in the first half of the year.
Miners Anglo American, Rio Tinto and BHP
Billiton fell from 1.4 to 3.2 percent as investors
fretted about demand especially in top consumer China.
Analysts advised caution in the near-term, but stayed
positive on the market's longer-term outlook.
"Rock-bottom interest rates are triggering a real change in
paradigm for investors who have to completely rethink their
asset allocation, and equities are set to benefit from this,"
said Frederic Biraud, head of B*Capital, a Paris-based brokerage
and wealth management firm.
"A lot of investors still have low exposure to stocks, and
it's becoming unbearable. Rates are so low that you get next to
nothing by investing in fixed income products, even in the
corporate space, while stocks offer much better returns.
"People are warming up to that but there's still a long way
to go in terms of allocation moves."
Among individual movers, Alstom rose 1 percent
after Hitachi said it would join bidders for the French
group's energy business countering an offer from General
BNP Paribas was also in the spotlight, gaining 0.5
percent after the bank, which is wrestling with U.S. authorities
over a potential $10 billion fine, said its chief operating
officer will step down at the end of the month.
Stock markets in Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Lisbon
opened 30 minutes late on Thursday due to a technical glitch at
market operator Euronext.
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 Blaise Robinson in Paris; Editing by