(Adds futures, further company news)
LONDON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - European shares were seen opening flat on Thursday, pausing near 7-year highs as investors awaited developments in Greece’s negotiations with its lenders and digested earnings from blue-chip companies including food group Nestle and reinsurer Swiss Re .
Futures for the Euro STOXX 50 equity index, Germany’s DAX, Britain’s FTSE and France’s CAC were between 0.1 percent lower and 0.1 percent higher at 0720 GMT.
Main indexes had posted healthy gains in the previous session on optimism about a deal to extend Greece’s loan agreement. The country is expected to conclude a deal with its euro zone partners “soon”, its government spokesman said on Thursday.
Swiss Re, the world’s second largest reinsurer, was indicated to open 0.9 percent higher after it sweetened the hit from forecast-lagging fourth-quarter results on Thursday by announcing a special dividend and share buyback.
Nestle was expected to rise by roughly the same amount after it reported full-year sales growth in line with analysts’ lowered expectations.
Global risk appetite was boosted overnight when minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last meeting showed “many” members wanted to keep rates near zero for longer.
British drinks can maker Rexam Plc said U.S. rival Ball Corp had made a cash-and-stock offer that valued the company at about 4.43 billion pounds ($6.85 billion).
BAE SYSTEMS : Europe’s biggest defence contractor BAE Systems said it expected earnings to rise marginally this year after it reported annual earnings broadly in line with forecasts.
International brewer SABMiller said on Thursday the group’s chief financial officer Jamie Wilson had resigned for personal reasons and will leave on March 31, the end of the firm’s current financial year.
Nestle reported full-year sales growth in line with analysts’ lowered expectations on Thursday, as the world’s largest packaged food company grapples with deflation in Europe and slowing demand in Asia.
Swiss Re, the world’s second largest reinsurer, sweetened the hit from forecast-lagging fourth-quarter results on Thursday by announcing a special dividend and share buyback.
State-owned Franco-Belgian financial group Dexia said on Thursday its net loss shrank in 2014 as it reduced its funding costs.
The German exchange operator saw net profit jump to 224 million euros in the last quarter of 2014, beating expectations, as trading volumes soared on uncertainties over the Ukrainian conflict and financial stability in Greece.
Switzerland’s biggest bank plans to combine its EU businesses in one unit, Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper reported without citing sources, adding the operation would probably be run out of Frankfurt.
Herve Falciani, the former HSBC employee who supplied information on the bank’s clients and their tax situation, said he was willing to return to Switzerland to stand trial if he was given assurances that he would not face immediate arrest.
Rating agency DBRS has cut its long-term debt and deposit rating on the troubled Italian bank BMPS.MI by one notch to ‘BBB(low)', keeping it under review for a possible further downgrade.
Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland have been in discussions with UK Financial Investments , the agency which manages taxpayers' stakes in the two lenders, about their pay structures for 2014, Sky News reported. (bit.ly/1ET0SZK)
The bank’s board renewed Chief Executive Laurent Mignon’s term in office for another four years at a meeting on Wednesday, the French investment bank said.
Airline group accelerates cost cuts and defers debt reduction goals as pressure on revenues and a weak euro threaten to dampen the benefits of lower oil prices.
The world’s largest maker of ophthalmic lenses posts a 15 percent rise in full-year operating profit on the back of 12 percent revenue growth, helped by expansion in North America and fast-growing countries, and acquisitions.
Talisman Energy Inc common shareholders on Wednesday voted to approve an $8.3 billion offer for the Canadian oil and gas producer from Repsol SA, clearing the way for the Spanish company to acquire Talisman’s worldwide operations.
Norwegian fish farmer Grieg Seafood posted a rise in fourth quarter operating profits on Thursday thanks to a one-off gain, and said the market for salmon was strong and that it was considering paying a dividend.
Reports full-year adjusted EBITDA grew to 550 million euros from 537 million euros, sets objective to return by 2020 to an adjusted EBITDA above 500 million euros with a free cash flow in excess of 250 million euros.
The French IT services firm said net income grew 8.8 percent last year and predicted a return to organic sales growth this year after a 1.1 percent drop in 2014.
The company also said it was moving Michel-Alain Proch into the role of senior executive vice-president and promoting Deputy Finance Director Elie Girard to Proch’s role as finance director.
Ingenico is targeting 10 percent organic sales growth this year, driven by its main electronic payment and payment terminals business, but it expects to see some margin erosion due to competitive pressures.
The Dutch brewer announced a 750 million euro share buyback
General Electric’s 12.4-billion-euro ($14.08 billion) bid for Alstom’s power equipment business is likely to face a full-scale investigation by EU antitrust regulators, three people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Italian publisher Mondadori has presented a non-binding offer to buy the book unit of RCS MediaGroup, the companies said in separate statements issued at the behest of the market regulator, Consob.
The regional utility said demand for a 10-year bond sold on Wednesday for 300 million euros totalled 12 times the amount offered.
The Daily Mail reported revived bid rumours concerning office rental group Regus.
12:00 Q4 2015 Walmart
BMO Q4 2014 Noble Energy Inc
AMC Q4 2014 Newmont Mining Corp
0745 FR CPI Jan
0900 EZ Current Account Dec
1330 Initial jobless claims w/e
1500 EZ Consumer confidence flash
1500 US Leading Index Jan
1500 US Philly Fed Feb
> JAPAN SHARES HIT 15-YR PEAK; YIELDS DROP ON FED VIEW > WALL ST ENDS NEARLY FLAT; FED MINUTES SUPPORT > NIKKEI RISES TO 15-YR HIGH HELPED BY FINANCIALS > TREASURIES-PRICES JUMP AS FED, DATA CHILL RATE-HIKE BETS > DOLLAR SLIPS AFTER SIDESWIPE FROM DOVISH FED MINUTES > GOLD EXTENDS GAINS ON HOPES FED WILL DELAY INTEREST RATE HIKE > LONDON COPPER PRICES DRIFT ON LUNAR NEW YEAR LULL > OIL FALLS SHARPLY AS U.S. CRUDE INVENTORIES EXPECTED TO HIT RECORD (Reporting by Francesco Canepa; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)