Italians to back white knight LSE bid

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The Independent Online

Angelo Tantazzi, chairman of the Milan Borsa, said yesterday he was ready to back a "white knight" offer for the London Stock Exchange to fend off Tuesday's hostile bid from Sweden's OM Gruppen for the LSE.

Angelo Tantazzi, chairman of the Milan Borsa, said yesterday he was ready to back a "white knight" offer for the London Stock Exchange to fend off Tuesday's hostile bid from Sweden's OM Gruppen for the LSE.

Mr Tantazzi, who was speaking to reporters on the fringes of an annual Italian bankers get-together, said that any counterbid could only be launched once OM had tabled its formal offer and revealed the details of its bid.

However, he said that he would be willing to support calls made earlier this week by Rolf Breuer, chairman of the Deutsche Börse, for an international counterbid for the LSE.

Milan and Madrid are keen to be fully involved in the Anglo-German iX plan for a pan-European market which has been thrown into doubt by OM's move.

"We have to wait and see what the Swedes are offering. But in principle there is a possibility of a counterbid," Mr Tantazzi said. "We are willing in principle to come in alongside Frankfurt if Frankfurt were to make a counterbid for the LSE."

Nasdaq, the US technology exchange, is also widely considered a potential counterbidder. But bankers say that the fact that it is still a long way from demutualisation makes it difficult to structure an offer that would better what it already on the table.

Pressure on the London and Frankfurt exchanges to act to save their iX merger mounted yesterday as the shares in OM Gruppen rose sharply for the fourth day running boosting the value of its offer for the LSE to £900m. The shares have risen by more than 13 per cent since the Swedish stock exchange owner launched a hostile bid for the London Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The shares were up 16 kronor to 489 yesterday taking the value of its offer up to more than £30 a share.

LSE shares closed at £28.75. Officials involved in the iX project met in Frankfurt yesterday for what had been billed as a technical meeting. One official who attended told agency reporters that those involved were aware that other bids were a possibility but in the meantime work on the iX plan was going ahead.

Brian Winterflood, the small companies broker who has emerged as de facto leader of opponents of the iX merger, has convened a meeting for Monday to discuss the implications of Tuesday's OM bid. Some 15, mainly retail brokers, are expected to attend.

Mr Winterflood said yesterday that the OM bid had bought time. "I can't help feeling that the wild card is Nasdaq. The game has changed. the LSE is in play. We have the luxury of sitting on the side."

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