* FTSEurofirst 300 down 0.1 pct, hovers just below 7-year high
* Euro zone talks expected to begin at 1400 GMT
* Actelion falls after warning on impact of higher franc
By Francesco Canepa and Blaise Robinson
LONDON/PARIS, Feb 16 (Reuters) - European stocks slipped on Monday, taking a breather following last week’s sharp gains, as investors awaited a euro zone finance ministers’ meeting in Brussels to see if common ground will be found with Greece’s new government.
At 1136 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.1 percent at 1,501.65 points, just below a seven-year high hit during the session on Friday.
Greece’s finance minister and his euro zone peers, together with European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, will discuss on Monday how to proceed with Greece’s bailout programme, which runs out on Feb. 28. Talks are expected to begin at 1400 GMT.
Greece said it was confident it would reach an agreement with its euro zone partners but Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he was not very optimistic about a deal being reached on Monday.
Greek shares were down 4.4 percent after rallying 11 percent last week as optimism about a deal grew.
“All eyes are on Greece again. We can’t really expect that an agreement will be reached today,” said Mirabaud Securities senior equity sales trader John Plassard.
The ECB has authorised emergency funding for Greek banks but will review its policy on Wednesday in the light of the Brussels talks. Germany’s Bundesbank urged Greek banks receiving emergency funding to improve their liquidity positions and not buy short-term Greek government debt.
Uncertainty over Greece’s future and a military conflict in Ukraine, where on Monday the government accused Russian-backed separatists of violating a day-old ceasefire, were major risks looming over a nascent economic recovery in the euro zone, according to UBS strategists.
“Fragile growth, particularly in the euro zone, remains at risk to bouts of political uncertainty,” they wrote in a note.
Shares in Switzerland’s Actelion fell 1 percent after warning that a surging franc following the Swiss central bank’s removal of a cap on the currency against the euro will weigh on results.
Swiss stocks have slipped since the surprise decision by the Swiss National Bank to remove the cap in mid-January, which sent the franc surging. The Swiss benchmark index SMI is down 5.3 percent since then, with biotech firm Actelion the most hit, down 15 percent.
Halfway into the earnings season, European corporate results have been positive so far, with 59 percent of companies meeting or beating earnings forecasts with their results, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data. In absolute terms, quarterly earnings are up 11.2 percent on average.
“We’re expecting good surprises from the European market this year. Europe can rally without the U.S. market,” said Marc Craquelin, chief investment officer at Paris-based asset manager Financiere de L‘Echiquier.
Europe bourses in 2015: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2015: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Toby Chopra)