* FTSEurofirst 300 flat at 1,194.90
* Miners fall 1.6 pct after weak China data
* Drugmakers boosted by M&A, Elan rejects offer
European shares were flat by midday on Monday with an attempt to rally capped by strong falls in miners, which were hit by weak data from the world's largest consumer of raw materials, China.
Miners, beset by growth concerns and underperforming the broader index by nearly 20 percent in 2013, fell 1.6 percent, tracking weaker metals prices, after the weekend data showed Chinese economic growth slowing.
Imports fell by 0.3 percent, against expectations for a 6 percent rise, and the volume of major metals imports, including copper and alumina, fell at double-digit rates.
"China is the elephant in the room," said Steen Jakobsen, strategist at Saxo Bank. "(The data) shows that real growth in the country is at best 5 percent right now, which means the growth component of the earnings of companies needs to be adjusted and that will take place over the summer."
JP Morgan warned investors should not bet on a potential catch-up rally in shares of mining and energy companies despite their underperformance so far this year.
Miners helped keep a lid on a rebound in the FTSEurofirst which struggled 0.64 points higher at 1,194.90 by 1039 GMT, off the day's low of 1,190.12.
A pick-up in the Japanese economy helped offset some concerns over China, but the index is likely to remain volatile before a Federal Reserve meeting next week, which could bring clues on the outlook for its stimulus programme.
"Stimulus is what is keeping us in place. If that is neutralized then we are back to fundamentals, which for a long time have dictated that we have too-high a valuation looking into the future and potential earnings," Saxo's Jakobsen said.
Investors retreated to more defensive sectors such as the drugmakers, which were also boosted by M&A talk.
Irish drug firm Elan Corp climbed 1.1 percent after rejecting an increased offer from Royalty Pharma, saying it was assessing enquiries from other interested parties.
AstraZeneca said it would buy U.S. respiratory drug specialist Pearl Therapeutics for up to $1.15 billion.