HKEX doesn’t give up its merger bid with LSE amid doubts

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/14 16:13:20


Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) doesn’t give up its proposal to merge with London Stock Exchange (LSE), even after the proposal was roundly rejected by the latter and widely doubted by analysts.

To maintain Hong Kong's position as the financial center in Asia, HKEX is likely to raise its bid to seek the transaction, but the possibility of a hostile takeover is very little, according to analysts.

HKEX on Friday expressed its expectation for LSE to further engage with HKEX to analyse in detail of the transaction, saying it "continues to believe that the proposed combination ... represents a highly compelling strategic opportunity."

HKEX said that it had hoped to enter into a constructive dialogue with the Board of LSE ... and is disappointed that LSE has declined to properly engage.

Earlier that day, LSE's board said it "unanimously" rejects the takeover proposal, citing price and strategic reasons. In a strong worded statement, LSE said that it sees "no merit in further engagement."

LSE's acquisition with financial market data and infrastructure provider Refinitiv Holdings Ltd is considered as a major obstacle between HKEX and LSE. HKEX's offer was conditional on LSE terminating its proposed acquisition of Refinitiv, but LSE on Friday said it will continue the acquisition.

In response, HKEX said that it had hoped to demonstrate why it believes that the benefits of its proposal significantly outweigh those of the proposed acquisition of Refinitiv.

Some analysts had attributed LSE's rejection to "Chinese influence," saying the vital financial infrastructure is worrying about "Chinese influence over it," but LSE chairman Don Robert said that LSE values its current partnership with the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

LSE only doubts whether HKEX can provide "the best long-term positioning in Asia or the best listing/trading platform for China," said Robert in LSE's statement issued on Friday.

"We value our mutually beneficial partnership with the Shanghai Stock Exchange which is our preferred and direct channel to access the many opportunities with China," the statement read.

LSE has made it clear that it recognizes the scale of the opportunity in China and value greatly its relationships in China, but exchange takeover is much more politically sensitive than company takeover, an agent surnamed Li with an investment bank told the Global Times on Saturday.

Besides political factor and Refinitiv, another reason LSE gave is the value HKEX offed "fell substantially short."

HKEX may raise its bid from $37 to $40 billion or even higher to LSE, and the possibility of hostile takeover is also raising, according to media reports on Saturday.

But Li said that considering the small difference of size of HKEX and LSE, it would cost HKEX significantly higher to do a hostile takeover, and he doesn't see the strategic necessary for HKEX to take the step.

Global Times


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