LSE, TMX abort their merger, leaving both in play

Wed Jun 29, 2011 5:26pm EDT
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By Pav Jordan and Luke Jeffs

TORONTO/LONDON (Reuters) - The London Stock Exchange's C$3.6 billion ($3.7 billion) plan to buy its Toronto counterpart collapsed on Wednesday in the face of a competing bid led by Canadian banks, leaving the UK exchange itself vulnerable to takeover.

The failure, which follows Singapore Exchange Ltd.'s scuttled bid for Australia's ASX Ltd, is the latest sign of nationalist pride frustrating cross-border deals for highly symbolic capital markets.

The failed bid from LSE opens the door to a hostile C$3.8 billion offer for TMX Group, operator of the Toronto Stock Exchange, from the Maple Group consortium. The consortium bid is a made-in-Canada alternative to a takeover that would have put a big domestic asset in foreign hands.

"This is a group of Canadians, businesses that came together and have asserted themselves," said Dwight Duncan, the province of Ontario's finance minister and an early opponent of the LSE deal.

In having to retreat from Canada, the LSE also draws attention to itself as a takeover target as exchanges consolidate to try to grow and broaden geographic reach, and to fight off rivals and new market entrants.

Nasdaq OMX Group, smarting from its own failure in the United States to buy New York Stock Exchange parent NYSE Euronext, could be a contender for an alternative transatlantic combination with the LSE.

"While the failed deal probably puts an end to TMX's M&A ambitions, other exchange operators will likely continue to look for partners. This reinforces my belief that we should expect more mergers, not less," said Ed Ditmire, New York-based analyst for Macquarie Securities.

Nasdaq and LSE shares rose in late trade on Wednesday, indicating that speculation about a tie-up could be brewing.   Continued...

<p>A red London bus passes the Stock Exchange in London February 9, 2011. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>