* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.3 pct, falls from 6 1/2-yr high
* Alstom deal sparks speculation of stake sales
* Euronext slips again; UBS starts with ‘sell’ rating
By Tricia Wright
LONDON, June 23 (Reuters) - European stocks fell on Monday as downbeat readings of euro zone business activity revived worries over the pace of economic recovery in the region.
Shares of companies in which the French state owns significant stakes retreated after the country’s economy minister, Arnaud Montebourg, hinted at sales of some holdings to finance investment in Alstom.
EDF fell 2.8 percent, Safran was down 2 percent, Orange was down 0.5 percent, Airbus down 1.5 percent and Thales down 2.5 percent, all underperforming France’s CAC 40, down 0.4 percent.
At 1513 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.3 percent at 1,390.22 points, retreating from a 6-1/2 year high hit last week.
Data compiler Markit said its composite Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) of activity in France’s manufacturing and services sectors slipped deeper into contraction in May, dampening hopes for a rebound in the euro zone’s second-biggest economy.
Separate Markit data showed manufacturing output in Germany, Europe’s largest economy, increased at its weakest rate since September. Service sector growth also slowed.
“The market doesn’t like at all the French PMIs, and the German data is also disappointing. It eclipses the upbeat Chinese data from overnight, and it’s a reminder that the latest ECB (stimulus) measures are not magic,” Saxo Bank trader Andrea Tueni said.
“At these levels, investors need positive catalysts to chase stocks higher, but there aren’t any. With the crisis in Iraq and the risk to see oil prices jumping, it’s just tempting to book profits.”
Earlier on Monday, data showed activity in China’s factory sector expanded in June for the first time in six months, boosting shares in European mining companies such as Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, both up 1.9 percent.
Also bucking the trend on Monday, Spain’s Dia added 3 percent after the world’s third-largest discount supermarkets group said it had reached a preliminary deal to sell its loss-making Dia France unit. Carrefour will but it for 600 million euros, more than the market had expected.
Shares in European stock market operator Euronext fell 5.1 percent, adding to losses on Friday when the stock started trading following its initial public offering. The stock is down 7 percent from the IPO price of 20 euros a share.
UBS initiated coverage of Euronext with a ‘sell’ rating and a price target of 17 euros a share, citing limited upside potential for a pick-up in trading volumes in Europe.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up (Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Larry King)