* FTSEurofirst 300 index closes 0.2 percent higher
* Media stocks up on M&A speculation related to ITV
* Novartis boosts drugmakers on new drug prospects
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, Sept 1 European shares edged higher to
close near a recent one-month peak on Monday, with merger and
acquisition speculation about British broadcaster ITV
helping media stocks and Novartis leading drugmakers.
Novartis, up 4.3 percent, was the top gainer on
the FTSEurofirst 300 index on news a new medicine from
the company could replace drugs that have been central to
treating heart disease for a quarter of century.
The Novartis advance helped the STOXX Europe 600 Healthcare
index to gain the most of any sector, at 1.1 percent.
ITV led the European media index higher, up 0.8
percent. The Telegraph reported that Liberty Global
was canvassing support from major ITV shareholders after it
acquired a 6.4 percent stake, raising speculation of a full
takeover bid. ITV declined to comment.
"We are likely to see M&A activities in other sectors also,
as companies are looking to utilise their cash balances," said
Keith Bowman, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
"But investors will stay cautious as geopolitical concerns
and uncertainty about the ECB's likely policy moves will remain
in the background."
Broker Liberum said ITV was its top media pick and still had
plenty of upside in its share price. Any bid for the company
should reflect the potential upside from ITV's being allowed to
charge re-transmission revenues for ITV1, Liberum said.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index ended 0.2 percent higher at
1,376.83 points, just below last week's one-month high. The Euro
STOXX 50, which will add Nokia from Sept.
22, replacing CRH after an index reshuffle, was up 0.1
percent. CRH fell 0.7 percent and Nokia dropped 1.4 percent.
Investors traded cautiously amid lingering tension in
Ukraine, weak economic data from China and lower volumes because
of a public holiday in the United States. Thursday's meeting of
the European Central Bank also loomed.
ECB sources told Reuters last week new action was unlikely
but not impossible. They said the barrier to some kind of
quantitative easing was still "very high".
"At least for now, quantitative easing hopes seems to trump
absolutely everything, including sharply escalating tensions in
Ukraine and weak Chinese PMI figures," said Markus Huber, a
trader at Peregrine & Black.
Tension in Ukraine continued to be felt in the market, with
Raiffeisen falling 2.3 percent on concerns about
further sanctions against Russia. Raiffeisen has 2.8 million
customers in Russia, one of the country's top 10 banks.
The tension also affected leading economic indicators, with
a business survey showing that euro zone manufacturing growth
slowed more than initially thought last month, as new orders
dwindled and factories suffered.
Among other individual movers, Iliad fell 8.8
percent after the French low-cost telecom operator said it would
continue its pursuit of T-Mobile US, even though the
owner of the U.S. mobile operator, Deutsche Telekom,
had rebuffed its first bid as too low.
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 Francesco Canepa; Editing by Ralph