Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd (HKEX) yesterday dropped its multibillion-dollar bid for the prized London Stock Exchange Group PLC (LSE), which would have created a global markets titan.
HKEX made the shock proposal for LSE on Sept. 11, but LSE formally rejected the offer the following day citing “fundamental” flaws and concerns over its ties to the Hong Kong government.
The huge cash-and-shares bid, which was worth ￡32 billion (US$40 billion), was dependent on the axing of LSE’s planned purchase of US financial data provider Refinitiv.
HKEX chairman Laura Cha (史美倫) at the time of the offer said that it represented a “compelling” opportunity and would bring together the largest and most significant financial centers in Asia and Europe.
However, the owner of the London and Milan stock exchanges unanimously rejected the bid, saying it fell “substantially short of an appropriate valuation for a takeover.”
It also argued it remained committed instead to its US$27 billion acquisition of Refinitiv.
HKEX said in a statement yesterday that it was “disappointed” to pull its bid, but that it was in the best interests of shareholders to do so.
“HKEX confirms that it does not intend to make an offer for LSE Group,” the statement said.
“The Board of HKEX continues to believe that a combination of LSE Group and HKEX is strategically compelling and would create a world-leading market infrastructure group,” it said.
“Despite engagement with a broad set of regulators and extensive shareholder engagement, the Board of HKEX is disappointed that it has been unable to engage with the management of LSE Group in realizing this vision,” it added.
HKEX chief executive Charles Li (李小加) said in a blog post that “I need to be rooted in our day-to-day business but forward-focused, certain that if we try something and it doesn’t work, we are strong enough and diverse enough to dust ourselves down and move forward.”
“We are honest with ourselves, too — as we know some things we try will not develop at the speed which we would like, or in some cases, at all. Our goal is to keep moving forward, reinforcing HKEX’s role and building Hong Kong’s strength as a financial market,” he wrote.
Hong Kong lawmaker and HKEX shareholder Christopher Cheung (張華峰) criticized the unsolicited takeover bid, telling Bloomberg News the “whole offer was a farce.”
“When HKEX announced the offer, I thought they’ve already had discussions with London Stock Exchange and their regulators. “It turns out they have not. HKEX now must address the danger of stagnant business growth.”
Shares in HKEX rose almost 3 percent.
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