Nasdaq amasses $2bn war chest in battle for control of LSE

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The Independent Online

Nasdaq revealed yesterday that it has borrowed $2bn (£1.1bn) to fund its audacious attempts to gain control of the London Stock Exchange.

The US stock market took a 15 per cent stake in the LSE last week after seeing a £2.4bn bid refused.

The move was seen as a strategic ploy to give it a strong say over any other deal the LSE may attempt - perhaps especially with its big rival the New York Stock Exchange.

The NYSE has held informal talks with London and could unveil a formal offer any day.

A filing to regulators shows that Nasdaq arranged a $2bn line of credit from the Bank of America to fund the acquisition of LSE shares.

It spent about £450m on acquiring the initial 15 per cent stake from Threadneedle and is free to increase its ownership this week up to 24.9 per cent.

City sources said yesterday that the NYSE had held talks with several large investors to see if it too can grab a chunk of LSE shares.

Citigroup, which is advising the NYSE, approached several shareholders including DE Shaw & Co and Scottish Widows.

As hope of a bidding war for the London exchange grows, hedge funds have been furiously buying up stakes.

This could leave the future of the City's most important financial institution out of the hands of the major banks that most rely on it for effective share trading.

The total stake held by the hedge funds is not clear, but it could be as much as 20 per cent.

The NYSE confirmed over the weekend that it is "currently engaged in discussions with certain industry participants although no definitive terms have been discussed or agreements reached".

The LSE's chief executive Clara Furse has offered to meet Nasdaq's Bob Greifeld now that he controls a major chunk of the shares.

A meeting has yet to be scheduled, it is understood.

The LSE is holding an extraordinary meeting this morning to approve a £510m return of funds to investors. Shareholders are likely to approve the deal.

LSE shares jumped again yesterday, gaining 27.5p to 1,259.5p.

Fund managers believe that Nasdaq's purchase at 1,175p a share has created an effective floor for LSE shares.

Given the bid speculation, many in the City still see LSE shares as a one-way bet, despite the dramatic surge in the price recently.