Panel raps Nasdaq boss over claims of support for LSE bid

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Nasdaq's chief executive Bob Greifeld has been ticked off by the City of London's Takeover Panel for comments he made about the expected level of support for his group's 950p-a-share offer for the London Stock Exchange.

Soon after revealing its interest in the LSE, the New-York based Nasdaq had appeared to claim the strong support of investors on several occasions, when in fact those shareholders had merely indicated they were keen to discuss a deal.

The Takeover Panel is concerned that the remarks were in breach of strict City rules and issued a rebuke, it is understood, although it did not go so far as to issue a formal warning.

Mr Greifeld, who was in London to woo top investors, has flown home to ponder his options. So far his overtures have been comprehensively rejected by the LSE, which claimed his 950p-a-share offer undervalues the company.

Now he is consulting the banking advisers Greenhill on whether to come back with a hostile offer. Although Nasdaq heard encouraging noises from investors, it did not get enough backing to persuade the LSE board that it had no choice but to open talks. Nasdaq refused to comment yesterday. A bid from the New York Stock Exchange for the LSE is widely expected, with Euronext, the pan-European stock market, also interested in pursuing a tie-up. The various options likely to present themselves to the LSE are bound to be the subject of much discussion at a board meeting scheduled for today.

Meanwhile, users of the LSE have been voicing their concerns about a possible takeover. APCIMS, the Association of Private Client Investment Managers and Stockbrokers, fears that dealing costs will rise if trading platforms are merged.

LSE shares fell 12.5p to 1,176.5p yesterday, still far above the level of Nasdaq's offer. The shares are so high that some observers believe a cash bid is now unlikely to succeed. It is more likely that Euronext will make an approach based on the principle of a share-based merger, sources said.

The NYSE is strongly rumoured to be working on a bid with help from Goldman Sachs.