European shares steady

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Paris - European shares were steady on Thursday as a World Bank cut in global growth forecasts offset merger hopes in the telecom sector and news of a new bidder for Alstom's energy business.

BNP Paribas was also in the spotlight, gaining 1.1 percent after the bank, which is wrestling with US authorities over a potential $10 billion fine, said its chief operating officer will step down at the end of the month.

By 10:20 SA time, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.1 percent at 1,392.81 points, hovering below this week's 6-1/2 year high.

The World Bank growth forecast cut prompted investors to book profits from recent gains on Wall Street overnight, while on Thursday, London copper prices dipped towards one-month lows.

Miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton both fell 2.2 percent as investors fretted about demand in top consumer China amid government efforts to boost the economy.

“After such a good rally, it's not the time to buy right now, it's better just to sit on your gains. The market is quite vulnerable to negative news at the moment,” Altedia Investment Consulting analyst Philippe de Vandiere said.

“In the longer-term however, earnings in Europe will start to recover in the next few months, which should lift stocks going forward.”

Alstom rose 1.3 percent after Hitachi said it would join the bidders for the French group's energy business countering an offer from General Electric.

Shares in Bouygues climbed 3.2 percent while Iliad rose 5 percent, lifted by hopes of further consolidation in France's telecom sector.

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.

Stock markets in Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Lisbon opened 30 minutes late on Thursday due to a technical glitch at market operator Euronext. - Reuters

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