LSE calls on Nasdaq to 'shut up or put up'

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The Independent Online

The chairman of the London Stock Exchange, Chris Gibson-Smith, called yesterday on America's Nasdaq to "shut up or put up" as the US exchange's final shareholder circular sent relations between the two to a new low.

In the circular, Nasdaq again attacked the LSE's board, saying it had "completely failed to engage with Nasdaq with respect to a recommended transaction".

It added: "In fact, the only meeting that has taken place was a meeting with Nasdaq as a shareholder, rather than as a potential bidder, in May 2006."

Nasdaq also sought to cast doubt on the LSE's "ambitious" forecasts for growth in trades over its SETS trading system and claimed the hostile £12.43-a-share takeover offer "satisfies all the LSE's stated objectives".

But the circular drew an angry response from the LSE. "The board believes it is increasingly clear that Nasdaq's interests are not aligned with those of other shareholders," it said. "Nasdaq's self-serving criticism of the exchange's growth prospects underlies its obvious need to acquire it - albeit on the cheap. The document published by Nasdaq today is once again long on rhetoric and short on valuation arguments."

The LSE also said Nasdaq had "at no stage attempted to pursue any constructive discussion with the exchange. In November 2006, it simply made public a second unsolicited approach, this time at an even lower multiple than its previous approach".

After Saturday, Nasdaq will not be able to raise its offer, even in the unlikely event of a board recommendation. The offer will remain open until 10 February. The US exchange holds 28.85 per cent of the LSE's shares, and needs to take that up to only 50 per cent to win control of the company.

The LSE's future remains in the hands of US hedge funds, but most of them bought at prices above the £12.43 offer. Shares in the LSE fell 10p to £13.06.