US-German deal and swing to Asia could dwarf LSE-TMX merger.
“It’s likely they’ll get a reasonably careful review [from the Commission],” admits a source familiar with the situation. “These deals are a lot more complicated than a cement or chemicals merger.”
For some, regardless of when the current deals get the green light, the real game-changer is yet to come. And it is to the East that those heads are turning.
Hong Kong listings have been increasingly in vogue over the past couple of years, as evidenced by Rusal’s $2.6bn (£1.61bn) IPO early last year. That deal has particular resonance for the shifting centre of gravity among the exchanges, coming after an attempted 2007 flotation by the Russian conglomerate failed to get away.
Nearer home, Poland’s state-owned Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE) has also been muscling in on the scene of late. Power company Tauron’s $1.3bn listing last year was one of the largest in the bourse’s history and came around the same time as it secured a strategic alliance with NYSE Euronext.
Norton Rose won the mandate for Tauron, with Mark Lloyd Williams, a corporate finance partner at the firm, saying such consolidation is a symptom of an increasingly well-worn tale, namely globalisation of the capital markets.
“Clearly, one of the things we’ve been seeing is the increasing arbitrage between exchanges,” he continues. “We’re seeing quite a lot of companies, particularly in the oil and gas and mining sectors, looking to get a dual listing.
“It shows that the capital markets are truly global, so people will expect a single firm to be a one-stop shop.”
In a sign that some firms may be worried that this brave new world could leave them stranded, this year has already seen Reed Smith and Travers Smith recruit their first London-based US securities partners.
But the US is only one part of the global picture, and it is the prospect of consolidation in Asia that will once again change the landscape.
Australia has rejected an advance from the Singapore exchange already this year, but the market is still holding its breath as it waits for the first major combination in that part of the world.
Dual listings could be here to stay, which may seem like a positive note for the LSE and the advisers who feed off it. But if the bigger global tie-ups increasingly leave London out in the cold, then the UK might end up in the second division.
It is a development that those firms with global aspirations are watching closely.
As Stocks at Taylor Wessing puts it: “Outside of watching the FA Cup, it’s the best spectator sport out there at the moment.”