Marathon man promises success for London

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The Independent Online

Nasdaq chief executive Bob Greifeld claimed yesterday that his bid for the London Stock Exchange was "good for the stock exchange and good for London".

Looking relaxed and confident, the wafer-thin marathon runner sought to allay fears about what his plans would mean for London's financial community.

"For this to succeed it has to mean London is successful, both the City of London and the London Stock Exchange. With this transaction we can't succeed unless London succeeds." Asked about London mayor Ken Livingstone's opposition to a deal, he said: "Well, we just need to sit down and talk to him."

Mr Greifeld insisted the two exchanges "were more like each other" than any other two exchanges around the world. He talked about creating a vast trading pool of liquidity between New York and London.

The Nasdaq boss said he was aware of the concerns recently expressed over how the exchange would be regulated but insisted: "We have had some very deep conversations with the Financial Services Authority on this. The LSE will continue to have its own board, with a majority of independent directors. It will be regulated in London by FSA. We will hold board meetings in London."

He also sought to hold out an olive branch to the LSE's directors. "Obviously some of the members of that board will sit on the board at group level. We are a meritocracy and if you look at our record you will see that senior people from companies we have acquired have taken senior positions at Nasdaq. We need to put these two organisations together. The time is right."

He said he hoped LSE shareholders would now urge its directors to talk. "We want to understand what these people [the LSE management] want to do. This offer was clearly structured as a way of saying 'let's talk'. I'm optimistic. The pieces are very much in place for this to happen." However, he refused to talk about what roles there may be for the London exchange's management within the merged company.

Mr Greifeld insisted his proposal was "a full offer" and pointed to the sale of shares by Scottish Widows. "Scottish Widows sold at £12.43 and they know what they are doing. By any objective measure this is a fair price," he said.

But Mr Greifeld was not prepared to give the junior AIM market his unqualified support. "Within the LSE is a wonderful success called AIM and we want to enhance and expand that. The key is to make sure there is transparency. We can't have people investing in it and thinking they are investing in fully listed companies."

That is likely to raise concerns among London's smaller stockbrokers who are adamant that the light regulation AIM enjoys should continue.