* ECB keeps rates, asset-buying plan unchanged as expected
* Zodiac Aerospace jumps after Safran’s $9 billion bid
* Earnings lift Moneysupermarket, but Royal Mail down on results
* Live markets: cpurl://apps.cp./cms/?pageId=livemarkets (Adds details, closing prices)
By Kit Rees and Danilo Masoni
LONDON/MILAN, Jan 19 (Reuters) - European stocks dipped on Thursday, though Zodiac Aerospace’s shares surged after a takeover offer by France’s Safran and Moneysupermarket.com also jumped after it reported strong results.
Zodiac Aerospace rocketed 22.8 percent after Safran offered $9 billion to buy the aircraft seat manufacturer.
After an initial positive reaction, shares in Safran turned lower to end down 5.4 percent. Some analysts warned such a tie-up is risky as Zodiac recovers from a nearly three-year cabin production crisis.
“To be taking on Zodiac, with its recent execution issues, is arguably doubling up on risk,” Vertical Research Partners analyst Rob Stallard said in a note.
Earnings boosted shares in Moneysupermarket.com by 7.9 percent to their highest level since May 2016 after the price comparison website reported better-than-expected fourth quarter and full year revenues.
Dutch-Belgian food retailer Koninklijke Ahold Delhaize also rose, up 5.9 percent after posting strong fourth quarter sales figures.
Its strong gains helped Europe’s STOXX Retail index rise 0.9 percent, the biggest sectoral gainer on the day.
Royal Mail’s results were badly received. Its shares fell 6 percent, weighing on the blue chip FTSE 100 index, which dropped 0.5 percent.
Analysts flagged further weakening in Royal Mail’s UK letters business as a concern.
Shares in Italian eyewear maker Safilo fell 13.9 percent after reports French luxury group LVMH would take a stake in rival spectacle manufacturer Marcolin.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index ended down 0.1 percent after a choppy day. Volatility was boosted by remarks from European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi following the bank’s widely expected decision to keep rates and its assets purchase programme unchanged.
Traders said they welcomed that the ECB stuck to its super-easy policy as growth improved and viewed as a relief the fact that the bank did not discuss a tapering of its asset purchases. Draghi also played down a recent rise in euro zone inflation.
But after surging as much as 0.3 percent as Draghi spoke, the STOXX dipped back into negative territory.
“Despite recent economic and inflation data improvement, the ECB tone has not changed since December, raising potential downside risks and the willingness to stay loose,” said Antoine Lesne, EMEA head of ETF strategy at SPDR ETFs, part of State Street Global Advisors.
“This may come from the potential skew that the political agenda brings to stability in the Euro area in the spring.” (Additional reporting by Danilo Masoni in Milan; Editing by Gareth Jones)