Suitors vie for position on LSE bid battle

The battlelines have been drawn up in the fight for the London Stock Exchange (LSE), but there is no telling who the victor will be.

Just 18 months ago, the LSE seemed likely to slip into the hands of a rival European exchange, but competition issues and Macquarie Bank’s hostile bid have combined to throw a collective spanner in the works.

The LSE, represented by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer corporate partner Graham Nicholson, was due to release its response document to Macquarie’s £1.5bn hostile bid as Lawyer 2B was going to press.

Last December the LSE embarrassed the Australian lender after its 580p-a-share offer was rejected by the exchange as being “wholly inadequate”.

Baker & McKenzie scooped the lead role advising Macquarie, largely because the majority of City firms were conflicted out of the role. Helen Bradley has been leading the team.

US firm Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy corporate partner Tim Emmerson is advising Macquarie’s financial adviser Goldman Sachs. Magic circle firm Linklaters is also acting on Macquarie’s side, advising German bank Dresdner, which is providing the debt financing.

Along with Macquarie, the LSE has held parallel talks with Germany’s Deutsche Börse and Franco-Dutch exchange Euronext on a possible takeover.

On the M&A aspects, Ashurst corporate heavyweight Adrian Clark has been acting for Deutsche Börse, while Slaughter and May partners Frances Murphy and Nilufer von Bismark have represented Euronext. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton partner John Brinitzer has also advised Euronext.

One of the key battles for Deutsche Börse and Euronext has been competition. The UK’s Competition Commission ruled that the takeover of the LSE by either of the exchanges would reduce competition in relation to share clearing.

Both Deutsche Börse and Euronext have been cleared by the Competition Commission, but they are still in talks with the regulator over conditions imposed on any formal takeover attempts.

Deutsche Borse was last year forced to postpone its takeover plans, to be offered at 530p a share, following a raft of complaints by angry shareholders.

Likewise, Euronext has been under mounting pressure from its shareholders to avoid paying a premium price for the LSE.