Liffe board weighs up LSE and Euronext takeover approaches

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The Independent Online

Sir Brian Williamson, the chairman of London's futures and options exchange Liffe, will this morning convene a board meeting to contemplate a takeover offer submitted by Euronext, the Paris-based stock exchange, and an existing proposal made by the London Stock Exchange last month.

The bidders have made no formal offers, instead submitting indicative proposals in accordance with the timetable set by Liffe when it said it had received several approaches at the end of last month. The offer from the LSE is thought to be shares and cash in equal measure and valuing Liffe at about £360m. There was mounting speculation that Euronext had trumped the offer yesterday.

Liffe declined to comment on any proposals it had received, although a spokesman said the board had "enough to talk about". Euronext and the LSE also refused to comment.

Euronext's last-minute intervention should have come as a relief to Liffe, which was running the risk of conducting an auction when just one bidder had expressed any interest. It is thought that the LSE's takeover plan involves its chairman, Don Cruickshank, and chief executive, Clara Furse, retaining their jobs in the enlarged company. Sir Brian would become deputy chairman, while Liffe's chief executive, Hugh Freedberg, would retain responsibility for the futures and options business.

Analysts have speculated that Euronext, which has a 650m euros (£407m) war chest, may offer as much as £400m. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Nasdaq are also watching the situation closely with a view to possible bids.