Saturday 20 January 2007
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Will Nasdaq win?

By James Quinn, Business Correspon
Last Updated: 1:01am GMT 19/01/2007

  • Furse will seek LSE partner
  • LSE throws last roll
  • Rising trades, better performance, lower costs, oh, and £250m back to shareholders. The central planks of the London Stock Exchange's final defence in its takeover war with Nasdaq are all strong - but are they strong enough?

    Clara Furse certainly hopes so, but, as has been the case for the best part of the last 26 months, her future is not in her hands.


    Yes, the LSE's share price remains well above Nasdaq's £12.43-a-share offer price, but that is being artificially bolstered by hedge funds and arbitragers buying small tranches of shares through complex derivative contracts which mask the truth.

    Many of these funds have an average buy-in price well below Nasdaq's offer, and are using these small purchases as much to put pressure on Nasdaq to raise its bid as anything else.

    What is also clear is that a number of hedge funds have been slowly selling out their positions in recent days - suggesting they would rather take the money on offer now rather than wait around to see what happens.

    Although the LSE's defence is predicated on future growth and the long-term, unfortunately the interests of the majority of its shareholders - Nasdaq excluded - are wholly short-term, focusing on the quick flip.

    The events of the next seven days could well govern the shape of the LSE and the London market over the next decade.

    If there are no talks between the two sides, and Nasdaq does not raise its offer, the choice will be between selling out for cash certainty, or hanging around to watch the share price fall. The choice most of the hedge funds will take is increasingly obvious.

    Then again, Ms Furse might just be lucky, and live on to fight another heated takeover battle.

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