* FTSEurofirst 300 index flat in late trading
* Results from Credit Agricole, Henkel support
* Fiat slips on scepticism over a new business plan
By Atul Prakash
LONDON, May 7 (Reuters) - European equities steadied in late trading on Wednesday, with a sharp decline in Fiat shares over scepticism about its new business plan offset by some positive company earnings.
Fiat Chrysler fell 10 percent, the biggest faller on the FTSEurofirst 300, as investors remained unconvinced about a plan to boost sales by 60 percent by 2018 and almost wipe out its debt, analysts said.
Experian, the world’s biggest credit data company, fell 6 percent, despite reporting an 8 percent increase in annual earnings, as its Chief Executive Don Robert said growth in the first half could be constrained.
However, share declines recorded by some major companies were offset by gains posted by elsewhere following the release of their first quarter earnings reports.
Credit Agricole, France’s third-biggest listed bank, rose 6.9 percent to top the FTSEurofirst 300 leader board after reporting a 30 percent rise in quarterly net income.
Germany’s Henkel was up 5.2 percent after beating expectations with results, while Coloplast gained 4.9 percent after surpassing forecasts and raising its revenue outlook.
“European earnings have not been as good as U.S. company results in the first quarter, but their medium- to longer-term outlook is positive,” Philippe Gijsels, head of research at BNP Paribas Fortis Global Markets, said.
“European earnings will improve going forward as a lot of companies have cut costs and are now lean and mean, which means that their earnings will improve with an economic recovery.”
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was flat at 1,342.72 points by 1502 GMT GMT after falling earlier to 1,337.75, the lowest since late April.
The market’s recovery in the late session was helped by news that Russian President Vladimir Putin had called on pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine to postpone a vote on secession just five days before it was to be held, potentially pulling Ukraine back from the brink of dismemberment.
“While the Ukrainian crisis has forced many investors and traders to rethink their short to mid-term investment strategy, with some of them putting their stock buying plans on hold for now, very few at this stage see the need to actually liquidate their portfolios in a major way,” Markus Huber, senior sales trader at Peregrine & Black, said.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up (Editing Jeremy Gaunt)