M&A boost helps European shares get off to strong start in Q2
* FTSEurofirst 300 rises 0.4 pct
* Alstom, BHP Billiton up on spin-off hopes
* Metso surges as Weir considers bid
* Stimulus chatter in China, U.S. lends support (Adds quotes, details, updates prices)
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, April 1 (Reuters) - European stocks got off to a brisk start in the second quarter, with merger-and-acquisition activity driving gains by industrial and mining stocks.
Alstom rose 7.2 percent on Tuesday, making it the top performer on the FTSEurofirst 300. The French turbine and train maker said it would sell its heat exchange unit to Triton, a European private equity group.
"Alstom are doing this from a position of weakness, as their operating cash flow has been quite poor," said Neil Wilkinson, European equities fund manager at Royal London Asset Management.
"It's more to shore up their balance sheet, while other cases, like the Metso-Weir deal, are encouraging as they indicate confidence in the markets that corporates are willing to put their hands in their pockets to undertake M&A." Continuación...