OM refuses to concede defeat in bid for LSE

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The Independent Online

The London Stock Exchange shareholders may think it's all over, but OM Gruppen yesterday insisted that until every last acceptance was counted, they were still in a with a chance.

The London Stock Exchange shareholders may think it's all over, but OM Gruppen yesterday insisted that until every last acceptance was counted, they were still in a with a chance.

The Swedish stock exchange group's £930m hostile bid for the LSE closes at 1pm today.

Anna Eriksson, a spokeswoman for OM, admitted that she "did not think OM will get 90 per cent". But her boss remained upbeat. Per Larsson, the OM chief executive, declared the group still "had a good chance" of getting 50 per cent acceptances, although even he admitted: "The market does not believe we will get it."

The bid could be declared unconditional with 50.01 per cent support, although OM would need 75 per cent to overturn the 4.9 per cent limit on LSE shareholdings. It was OM's bid for LSE two months ago that led to the collapse of the London exchange's planned iX merger with Frankfurt.

Ms Eriksson sought to put a brave face on OM's possible disappointment saying that the media coverage generated by the bid had made the effort worthwhile.

She said: "This has been a really interesting couple of months and no matter what the outcome, we are very happy with this period, because we have got a lot of support, a boost in our brand name, a lot of attention and now we have more people other players coming to us than ever before with interesting proposals."

She says that as a result of the bid, OM was now mentioned in stock exchange circles in the same breathe as Deutsche Borse, LSE and Euronext, the French, Belgian, Dutch combined exchange group.

The Swedes are offering 1.4 new OM shares for each LSE share, or a partial cash alternative of £20 in cash and 0.5 new OM shares, valuing the LSE at £930m. However, with LSE shares languishing at £24 - nearly 30 per cent below the per share value of the OM bid, the market has long ago written off OM's chances.

By 30 October, despite raising the value of its offer by some 50 per cent, OM received acceptances from shareholders speaking for just 2.73 per cent of LSE shares.

OM's judgement that LSE shareholders were so unhappy with the existing management that they would be prepared to sell the Exchange to the Swedes, has turned out to be wide of the mark. Once Don Cruickshank, the LSE chairman, had dropped plans for the much-hated iX merger with Frankfurt and persuaded Gavin Casey, the former chief executive, to resign, support for OM melted away.

Industry insiders have posed the question about whether it made sense for OM to have diverted so many resources to the bid for the LSE when it was gearing up to launch Jiway, a massive project to create a pan-European stock exchange for retail investors.

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