* FTSEurofirst 300 flat, Euro STOXX 50 up 0.1 pct
* Geopolitics, U.S. visibility keep activity subdued
* Ryanair, Reckitt outperform on earnings, dealmaking
* German market underperforms on Russia exposure
By Lionel Laurent and Blaise Robinson
LONDON/PARIS, July 28 (Reuters) - European stocks traded flat on Monday, with strong earnings updates from firms like Ryanair and spin-off talk from Reckitt Benckiser balancing concerns over the implications of new international sanctions on Russia.
European equities have barely budged from their levels at the end of June, holding back from new multi-year highs on doubts over the pace of economic recovery in the euro zone and the impact of conflicts in Ukraine and across the Middle East.
At 1055 GMT, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was flat at 1,372.24 points, while the euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index was up 0.1 percent.
Sentiment was subdued overall, with investors looking ahead to a busy week of data and earnings from the U.S. and digesting a recent batch of mixed trading updates from European firms.
“Tensions in Ukraine and Middle East, recent nasty surprises in the earnings season... There’s just a lack of visibility at the moment which is prompting investors to just stay on the sidelines,” Talence Gestion fund manager Alexandre Le Drogoff said.
Airline Ryanair and consumer-goods group Reckitt Benckiser were among the outperformers, up 2 to 4 percent after a blowout quarter for the airline led it to raise its profit forecast and after Reckitt said it planned to sell its heroin-addiction treatment, worth $4.9 billion by some measures.
France’s Danone was also among the top gainers, up 1.1 percent following a report that the food and beverage major is in talks to sell its medical nutrition business to U.S. group Hospira in a deal valuing the unit at about $5 billion, or 3.7 billion euros.
“In the past, the price mentioned was 3 billion euros, so this 3.7 billion euro tag is a better price,” a Paris-based trader said.
On the downside, German automakers Daimler and Porsche - as well as Austrian lender Raiffeisen Bank - were down over 2 percent. Banking-technology group Wincor Nixdorf also sank as much as 11 percent after it slashed its sales forecast.
Germany, a top trading partner of Russia, is seen by investors as relatively more exposed to the Ukraine crisis than other markets. The Frankfurt blue-chip DAX index was down 0.1 percent, underperforming the French CAC 40 and the UK FTSE 100.
The EU reached an outline agreement on Friday on its first economic sanctions on Russia over the fighting in Ukraine, targeting capital markets, arms and high-tech goods, while international pressure grew to end Israel and Hamas’ conflict in the Gaza Strip.
There was mixed news from the financial sector: Spain’s Bankia reported a near-doubling of quarterly profit on the back of a sustained recovery for the country’s banking sector, though Germany’s Commerzbank unveiled more pain ahead as part of a wider savings programme that will cost more jobs.
Emerging markets-focused fund manager Aberdeen Asset Management fell 3 percent after it said assets under management dipped in the June quarter, with clients withdrawing 8.8 billion pounds ($14 billion).
Data showed a sharp rise in profits earned by Chinese industrial firms, up 17.9 percent in June from a year earlier, fuelling expectations that the world’s second-largest economy is powering through its recent soft patch as the government uses targeted stimulus measures to support growth.
Europe bourses in 2014: link.reuters.com/pap87v
Asset performance in 2014: link.reuters.com/gap87v
Today’s European research round-up (Editing by Hugh Lawson)