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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 07:56 GMT
Q&A: LSE takeover?
London Stock Exchange
The LSE takeover saga has been a lengthy one

US stock market firm Nasdaq has stepped in with a hostile takeover bid for the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

The 2.7bn ($5.1bn) approach direct to LSE shareholders means that the future of the London market is uncertain once again.

What's been going on?

The battle for the LSE has been a long one, kicking off in 2004 with an approach from Germany's Deutsche Boerse.

Since then Australia's Macquarie Bank, UK brokerage Icap and even the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) have been linked to bids.

As a result, LSE shares have surged more than 110% over the past year to highs above the 13 mark.

I don't own any LSE stocks, will a takeover affect me?

While a takeover could mean a significant windfall for LSE investors, the move will not have a direct effect on non-shareholders.

But it will affect them indirectly, mainly through pensions and savings.

Many funds invest part of their money in shares with the aim of increasing their investment. Some savings schemes also rely on a similar system.

Why is the LSE seen as such an attractive bid target?

London is becoming a more attractive place for US companies to do business as an international hub.

The LSE has been described as a "tasty morsel," with a "fantastic reputation".

We intend to finance the acquisition by borrowing up to $5.1bn
Nasdaq statement

It is also very profitable, making a 76.7m profit in the past six months.

Economists will tell you that people go to Tokyo to do business in Japan, New York to do business in the US, but they come to London to do business with the rest of the world.

Also, London has a more flexible approach to both foreign companies and investors than the US does.

Indeed, London has started to overtake New York as the major global financial centre as leading engines of economic growth switch away from the US.

The exchange is also seen as a relatively small company compared with many of its international rivals, which have branched out into other trading platforms.

Why is the Nasdaq going hostile?

The LSE board of directors had rejected its two previous approaches, saying that they undervalued the firm. The LSE also refused to any further meetings with Nasdaq.

LSE has so far managed to keep investors on side in the past by offering cash returns to shareholders.

Electronic board showing Nasdaq share prices
There are worries about US regulation being imported to the UK

In theory UK regulators could attempt to block the bid over regulatory concerns, but they have indicated that foreign ownership would not be a problem.

A previous approach from Deutsche Boerse had sparked competition worries as Europe has only three major exchanges - LSE, Deutsche Boerse and Euronext.

Other experts claim a US takeover could mean a change in the way the UK market is regulated.

The hassle of US regulation and its more onerous legal systems would also make London a less attractive place to list.

However, Nasdaq has tried to ease these fears saying the UK's financial services regulator would remain the sole watchdog for the market.

The government is also proposing legislation to ensure that firms listed in London would not be bound by US regulations should the LSE be bought by a US company.

What's in it for the LSE?

Apart from swelling the pockets of shareholders, it is hard to tell immediately.

Ownership by the Nasdaq, for example, may do little to make the LSE more efficient as Nasdaq's technology is significantly slower than LSE's.

The Nasdaq's approach had also prompted fears that its ability to invest in the LSE would be undermined by its future debt burden.

What will happen now?

Nasdaq has taken the bid directly to LSE's shareholders, who have until 11 January to accept or ignore the 12.43 per share offer.

In the meantime the LSE will be trying to convince its shareholders to reject the approach.

Some experts believe the LSE will be hunting for a "white knight" bidder that will rival Nasdaq's offer or even make a higher offer.

Nasdaq unveils hostile LSE offer
12 Dec 06 |  Business
Nasdaq makes 2.7bn offer for LSE
20 Nov 06 |  Business
In-demand LSE sees profits surge
08 Nov 06 |  Business
Icap emerges as latest LSE suitor
25 Sep 06 |  Business
UK to set 'light-touch' LSE rules
13 Sep 06 |  Business
Nasdaq's LSE stake grows to 25.1%
19 May 06 |  Business

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