* FTSEurofirst 300 index closes flat
* Iliad, Bouygues up on sector consolidation hopes
* Miners slip on global growth concerns
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, June 12 European equities closed near
recent multi-year highs on Thursday, as merger hopes buoyed some
telecom stocks but mining shares fell amid global growth
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares
finished flat at 1,392.02 points, just below this week's 6
Iliad rose 6.3 percent, the top gainer on the
FTSEurofirst index, and Bouygues advanced 5.2 percent
on expectations of more consolidation among French telecom
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 end the "destructive
spiral" of falling prices.
"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.
Gains by some shares were offset by a decline in mining
shares related to concerns about the global economic outlook.
Copper prices have slid 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
Antofagasta fell from 2.6 to 3.2 percent as investors
fretted about demand, especially in top consumer China.
Analysts advised caution for now 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, UBS fell 1.6 percent
following a research report saying the bank might have to pay $8
billion in fines and settlements relating to alleged collusion
and price-manipulation in the global currency market.
The report, published on Wednesday by independent research
firm Autonomous Research, said foreign exchange settlements
could cost banks a total of $35 billion, almost six times more
than the total fines paid in the Libor interest rate-rigging
BNP Paribas was also in the spotlight after the
bank, which is wrestling with U.S. authorities over a potential
$10 billion fine, said its chief operating officer will step
down this month. BNP shares rose 0.2 percent.
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