Macquarie to allay Goldman fears with 'City co-op'

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The Independent Online

Macquarie, the Australian bank, is considering plans to allow a string of UK stockbrokers to join it in its takeover bid for the London Stock Exchange. The move is designed to allay fears that Goldman Sachs, Macquarie's adviser, may be given undue influence over the market.

The Australian bank, which has stalked the LSE for weeks but has yet to make a formal offer, appointed Goldman as its adviser at the start of this month, sparking controversy among the London market's other major customers. As well as offering advice to Macquarie, Goldman is believed to be planning a financial stake in the bidding consortium.

As a compromise, Macquarie is believed to have come up with a plan, dubbed the "City co-op", which would see the Australian company split ownership of the exchange between two classes of shares. While it would own the majority of one of the share classes, the other would be owned by brokers and banks for whom affordable and equal access to the exchange is vital.

Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein is believed to have expressed its interest in taking a stake in the exchange.

Two weeks ago, the LSE asked the Takeover Panel to put pressure on Macquarie to "put up or shut up" by giving it a deadline to make its intentions clear. The Australian group revealed it was considering a bid in August, but has made no public comment since and maintained that stance yesterday. The panel has not imposed a deadline but it is thought Macquarie is feeling the pressure and an offer may come this week.

A formal bid from Macquarie may spark renewed interest from Deutsche Börse, the German exchange, which ditched an approach for the LSE this year but retained the right to reconsider an offer if other bids were made.

Euronext, which owns Liffe, the London derivatives market, also remains interested but has been warned by the Competition Commission it would have to sell its stake in London Clearing House before an offer is approved. It is also exploring the possibility of a merger with Deutsche Börse.

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