* Euro STOXX 50 down 0.8 pct, DAX down 0.3 pct
* Greek shares fall as talks over Greek debt continue
* FTSEurofirst 300 helped by rise in UK’s FTSE
* Airbus shares fall after military plane crash in Spain
* Delhaize, Ahold shares surge on merger reports
* Europe bourses in 2015: link.reuters.com/pap87v
By Sudip Kar-Gupta
LONDON, May 11 (Reuters) - Lingering concerns over Greece’s debt situation pegged back European stock markets on Monday, though a rate cut in China, the world’s biggest metals consumer, boosted mining stocks.
Shares in plane maker Airbus fell 3.4 percent after an Airbus A400M military transport plane crashed outside Seville on Saturday, killing four test crew and prompting Britain and Germany to ground Europe’s new troop and cargo carrier.
The euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index fell 0.7 percent.
Germany’s DAX fell 0.2 percent while France’s CAC retreated by 1 percent, although a 0.5 percent rise in Britain’s FTSE 100 propped up the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index.
An interest rate cut in China lifted British mining stocks and the FTSE 100, since miners count for around a tenth of the FTSE’s overall market capitalisation.
However, Athens’ benchmark ATG equity index fell 2.5 percent.
Greece’s government remains hopeful that a meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Monday will note progress in talks with lenders on a cash-for-reforms deal and pave the way for an easing of Greece’s cash crunch, a government official said on Sunday.
But the Eurogroup ministers have ruled out clinching a deal to unlock aid at the meeting, saying too many issues remain unresolved.
“The Greek situation is creating a lot of nerves in the market,” said Mirabaud Securities’ senior equity sales trader John Plassard.
Shares in Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize and Dutch retailer Ahold surged 14.7 percent and 7.2 percent respectively after Belgian newspapers reported that the two companies had begun talks on a possible merger.
Corporate takeover activity has propped up European stock markets this year, despite the negative pressures from Greece. Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta rose 2.9 percent on Monday on expectations that U.S. rival Monsanto could return with a higher bid for it.
New economic stimulus measures from the European Central Bank (ECB) have also helped to limit Greece’s impact on the region’s stock markets.
Some traders expected an eventual deal on Greece to be reached, but added that most investors would refrain from buying up new equity positions while the situation remained uncertain.
“I think a deal will be done, it’s just a case of when. But I can’t imagine that too many people will want to bet too heavily on the markets until a deal is done,” said Neighbour.
Asset performance in 2015: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Andrew Heavens)