* FTSEurofirst 300 flat
* Alstom jumps; among most shorted stocks on Paris bourse
* Persistent Ukraine tension weighs on sentiment
* Stocks under pressure after U.S. GDP
(Updates with closing prices)
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, April 30 (Reuters) - Reports of further corporate
deal-making supported European shares on Wednesday, despite
coming under pressure following a build-up of tension in Ukraine
and weak U.S. growth data.
Alstom jumped 9.3 percent after saying it would
review a binding offer from General Electric for its
energy business by the end of May and left the door open for a
competing bid from Germany's Siemens.
Shares in Alstom resumed trading on Wednesday, after being
suspended since late last week.
According to data from Markit, 7.1 percent of Alstom shares
are out on loan, making it one of the most shorted stocks on the
Paris bourse. Short sellers could not close their positions
while the stock was suspended.
The Alstom news was only among the latest in a burst of
deal-making and bids seen largely in the healthcare sector.
In another example of drugmakers trying to shed non-core
assets, France's Sanofi is looking to sell a portfolio
of mature drugs that could fetch $7 billion to $8 billion,
according to people familiar with the matter. Its shares rose
"Despite the recent batch of mega-deals announced, this is
probably just the beginning of a long wave of mergers and
takeovers," said Jeanne Asseraf-Bitton, head of global
cross-asset research at Lyxor AM, which has $114 billion in
assets under management.
"There is a growing pressure on company managers to put cash
to work and focus on external growth, while organic growth
remains weak. In that context, we should see a rise in hostile
bids, as well as the return of leveraged deals."
The FTSEurofirst 300 flat at 1,352.45 points by the
close. It had jumped 1.2 percent on Tuesday, notching up its
highest finish since April 4, when it closed at its highest in
The index came under pressure after GDP data from the United
States markedly missed expectations.
Investors were reluctant to place big bets before the end of
the Federal Reserve's policy meeting, which is expected to
provide details of the scaling back of its stimulus.
They were also concerned by the situation in Ukraine, where
pro-Russian gunmen have taken control of swathes of the
country's industrial east largely unopposed by police.
Both the United States and European Union have stepped up
their sanctions against Russia this week for what they say is
its involvement in the crisis.
On Wednesday, German and Japanese leaders said leading
industrial powers would stand united on further sanctions
against Russia if needed, despite Moscow's threat to retaliate
against foreign energy companies.
"The economic effect on Europe of (tensions in Ukraine)
could see the region continue in a stagnant period of 0.5
percent to 1 percent growth. It is a concern for us," said
Jonathan Bell, chief investment officer at Stanhope Capital,
which oversees $8.5 billion.
He said it was unlikely that Germany, which imports Russian
gas, would back sanctions that punished Russia too severely.
Europe bourses in 2014: http://link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: http://link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today's European research round-up
(Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Alison