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Euronext gets green light to take over Oslo Bors by end June

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Euronext NV won the permission of the Norwegian government to buy the Oslo stock exchange without imposing an ownership threshold on the Franco-Dutch company.

[LONDON] Euronext NV won the permission of the Norwegian government to buy the Oslo stock exchange without imposing an ownership threshold on the Franco-Dutch company.

The decision gives Euronext victory over Nasdaq Inc in a bitter five-month takeover battle that has driven the price of the bourse up to US$775 million.

Euronext shareholders will vote on the bid on May 16 and the company aims to complete the purchase of a 53% controlling stake in Oslo Bors VPS by the end of June, it said in a statement. Euronext would then consolidate Oslo Bors into its financial accounts, Chief Executive Officer Stephane Boujnah said in an interview.

"The Norwegian authorities have decided not to frustrate this transaction, which was solicited by a majority of Norwegian shareholders," Mr Boujnah said. "Hard facts prevail."

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Norway's Finance Ministry confirmed in a separate statement that it had approved Euronext as a suitable owner of Oslo Bors. Crucially, the government decided not to impose a two-thirds ownership requirement, which had been pushed by Nasdaq. Such a threshold would have stopped Euronext from completing the takeover because more than a third of shareholders had accepted Nasdaq's rival offer.

Lauri Rosendahl, Nasdaq Nordic's president, said in a statement that the decision not to require a two-thirds majority is "disappointing."

Euronext obtained the backing of a majority of Oslo Bors's shareholders over the Christmas holiday. It won an auction organised by a group of shareholders seeking to sell their stakes in the owner of the Norwegian stock exchange. Euronext then bought enough shares to take its total support to more than 50 per cent.

Nasdaq launched a competing bid in January securing the backing of Oslo Bors's board and its two largest shareholders - Norway's biggest bank, DNB ASA, and its largest pension fund.

DNB spokesman Thomas Midteide said in an emailed statement that the bank doesn't agree with but accepts the ministry's ruling. "We have committed to selling our shares to Nasdaq, and for our part this commitment will run until the bid expires," he said.

"The board of Oslo Bors VPS notes the decision and will work closely with the new majority owner in order to ensure the best possible solution further for the group, the business and the employees," Oslo Bors said in statement on the Norwegian OTC website.

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