* FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.2 pct, sets fresh 7-year high
* Altice, Numericable surge after Vivendi sells stake
* Telecom Italia also boosted by Orange speculation
By Francesco Canepa
LONDON, March 2 (Reuters) - Europe’s top European indexes made fresh multi-year highs on Monday as a boost from merger activity in the telecoms sector more than offset falls in media group Vivendi.
The French media group said on Friday it had agreed to sell its remaining stake in telecoms company Numericable-SFR to Altice at 40 euros per share, well below Numericable-SFR’s share price of 55.40 euros on Friday.
Shares in Altice surged 9.9 percent to be the top riser on the FTSEurofirst 300 index of pan-European shares, which was up 0.2 percent at 1,565.83 points at 0839 GMT.
Numericable’s shares were up 5.5 percent while Vivendi fell 5.5 percent to the bottom of the index despite announcing a share buyback and dividend.
The group plans a share buyback worth 2.7 billion euros at a maximum purchase price of 20 euros per share.
“While Vivendi has simplified its portfolio considerably, the comments on cash return disappointed, especially what (seems to us) an unnecessary limit on the price at which the shares are bought back,” analysts at Liberum said, downgrading the stock to hold from buy.
The FTSEurofirst set a fresh seven-year high in early deals after the best start to the year since they started trading in late 1986, driven by the prospect of the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing programme set to start in March.
Germany’s Dax and Britain’s FTSE 100 hit new all-time highs, leaving them in “overbought” territory based on some market indicators.
“In the very short term, we would urge a little caution in chasing European equities,” Stewart Richardson, chief investment officer at RMG Wealth Management, said.
Merger speculation boosted shares in Telecom Italia , up 2.3 percent after the chief executive of France’s Orange said the two companies had been discussing a possible alliance. Orange’s shares were flat.
Aside from M&A, Spanish lender Bankia rose 4.3 percent after reporting a 22 percent rise in net profit.
Investors’ growing optimism about the euro zone will be put to the test when manufacturing for the currency club is published at 0900 GMT.
“European markets remain buoyant, not just because of low yields but it seems that finally economic activity and confidence are ticking up from the lows,” said Lex Van Dam, hedge-fund manager at Hampstead Capital.
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)