Business World

Tuesday 22 October 2019

LSE rejects Hong Kong takeover bid out of hand

The stock pared gains after analysts poured cold water on the possibility of the deal succeeding and top investors raised doubts about its attractiveness compared to the Refinitiv acquisition (stock photo)
The stock pared gains after analysts poured cold water on the possibility of the deal succeeding and top investors raised doubts about its attractiveness compared to the Refinitiv acquisition (stock photo)

Viren Vaghela

London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) has rejected a takeover proposal from Asian rival Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing (HKEX), saying the bid has "fundamental flaws".

The board of the 300-year old British bourse, which is working on its own deal to buy data provider Refinitiv, said HKEX's approach had problems in its "strategy, deliverability, form of consideration and value".

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"Your assertion that implementation of a transaction would be 'swift and certain' is simply not credible," the firm said in a statement last Friday.

"Given the fundamental flaws in your proposal, we see no merit in further engagement."

HKEX has said its takeover would only happen if the LSE ended its deal with Refinitiv - and that it could go hostile if the business resisted its plans to build an Anglo-Asian markets giant.

Shares in the LSE were up 1.6pc after the announcement in London trading. The shares initially rose as much as 16pc last Wednesday after HKEX said it wanted to combine the exchanges in a cash-and-stock deal which valued the London firm at £29.6bn (€33.26bn).

However, the stock pared gains after analysts poured cold water on the possibility of the deal succeeding and top investors raised doubts about its attractiveness compared to the Refinitiv acquisition.

"I don't expect HKEX to walk away without trying more," said Massimo Stabilini, a former Paulson & Co executive who now runs his own hedge fund, Sinclair Capital.

"I expect them to come back with a better offer and with a higher cash component," he added.

The British government has the power to scrap the deal on public-interest grounds. Last Wednesday it said LSE is a "critically important part of the UK financial system" and that it would be closely scrutinising details of the transaction.

Both firms have been involved in exchange merger deals in recent years, with LSE failing in its most recent attempt two years ago to combine with Deutsche Bourse.

HKEX acquired London Metal Exchange in 2012 for £1.4bn.

Bloomberg

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