Liffe has summoned suitors to a board meeting tomorrow to make their case for buying London's futures and options exchange. A preferred bidder could be appointed by the end of the week.
Liffe has told the candidates – the London Stock Exchange and French and German rivals Euronext and Deutsche Bourse – to offer at least £16 a share, or £560m. Hugh Freedberg, Liffe's chief executive, said last week that bidders had only one stab at a friendly deal, after which they would have to go hostile. "We will choose a preferred partner, and could recommend an offer in days," he said. "An overseas bidder is not at a disadvantage to a London bidder."
Euronext, which has said it is making a cash bid, is thought to be offering Mr Freedberg and Liffe's chairman, Brian Williamson, the chance to run a pan-European derivatives operation as a company subsidiary.
The LSE, which wants to combine share and derivatives trading on one platform, is considering adding more cash to an earlier half-cash, half-shares proposal.
None of the parties would comment yesterday.