London Stock Exchange poised to see off hostile Nasdaq bid

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The Independent Online

The London Stock Exchange was last night on the brink of victory in its battle to see of the Nasdaq's "final" £12.43-a-share hostile takeover bid.

The US exchange will announce the level of acceptances it has received this afternoon, but on the last closing date two weeks ago had failed to secure even 1 per cent of the LSE shares it does not already own.

Yesterday, 6.2 million LSE shares changed hands, more than in recent days but still low compared to the activity between 2 January and 20 January when on one day the turnover reached 24 million shares.

The relatively low turnover is significant since most of the hedge funds who have the power to decide the LSE's future hold their shares through derivatives. They would have had to convert those derivatives into shares yesterday to accept the Nasdaq's offer - and turnover would therefore have been much higher were significant numbers of them doing that.

LSE shares finished unchanged at £12.82, and although they went as low at £12.62 during the day, that is still comfortably higher than the Nasdaq's offer.

They rallied after Paulson, the hedge fund, said it had again increased its stake in the LSE, buying an interest in 480,000 shares through derivatives at £12.86. It now holds nearly 6 per cent of the exchange's shares.

Nasdaq all but admitted defeat earlier this week. It indicated it was likely to hang on to its 29 per cent stake in the LSE for 12 to 18 months to gauge the impact of the European Mifid directive - designed to facilitate exchange competition - and the impact of Project Turquoise, the proposed pan-European trading platform, on the LSE's business.

However, that will leave hundreds of millions of pounds of Nasdaq's capital tied up, and today's expected confirmation of defeat will be a personal blow to Nasdaq boss Bob Greifeld, who cannot table a fresh bid for at least a year under Takeover Panel rules.

A deal with the LSE would have transformed his business and allowed him to compete with a merged New York Stock Exchange and Euronext.

However, the LSE chief executive, Clara Furse, for whom success will be a personal triumph, refused to give way to an offer she said was "wholly inadequate" and did not even represent "standalone value" for the LSE's business. She will now have the challenge of keeping up the LSE's share price while pursuing alliances in the face of possible opposition from a piqued Nasdaq.

For his part, Mr Greifeld will face questions about the Nasdaq's aggressive tactics and its insistence on tabling the bid as a "final offer".

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