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LSE investors awaiting higher offer from Hong Kong

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The Hong Kong Stock Exchange needs to stump up more cash to clinch a takeover of the prized London Stock Exchange Group - but still faces an uphill battle, investors say.

[LONDON] The Hong Kong Stock Exchange needs to stump up more cash to clinch a takeover of the prized London Stock Exchange Group - but still faces an uphill battle, investors say.

The Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) last week unveiled a shock cash-and-shares bid which was worth £32 billion (S$54.9 billion) and dependent on the axing of LSEG's proposed purchase of US financial data provider Refinitiv.

However, the owner of the London and Milan stock exchanges has unanimously rejected the bid as too low, arguing it remains committed instead to its takeover of Refinitiv for US$27 billion, while also citing concerns over HKEX ties to the Hong Kong government.

HKEX responded by indicating that it could go hostile, bypassing management and taking its proposal direct to shareholders - but the price is critical.

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Market voices on:

"The London Stock Exchange board of directors have given a very long list of why it is not interested," in the HKEX bid, said Iacopo Dalu, research analyst at LSE minority investor Janus Henderson investment fund.

"One of them is the price," he told AFP.

Another minority shareholder has not ruled out the HKEX takeover but remains similarly unconvinced.

"The market is disappointed with the cash component," said Guy de Blonay, fund manager for the Jupiter Financial Innovation Fund.

"The only answer is to improve the price," he told AFP.

Shares have meanwhile held stubbornly below the bid which stands at more than £83 per share.

In late afternoon deals on Tuesday, LSEG stock fell 0.5 per cent to stand at £73.66 on London's FTSE 100 index, which was 0.4 per cent lower.

"If LSEG investors felt that a new bid was coming the share price would probably be higher," noted CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

The LSEG has insisted that it remains committed instead to its transformational Refinitiv deal.

Refinitiv will help shift LSEG from generating revenue solely from the trading of securities to providing investors information about trading, which will put it in direct competition with data and financial news firm Bloomberg.

"The more I look at this (HKEX) deal and the more I think what is the point," added Mr Hewson.

"HKEX probably needs the deal more than the LSE, and why would LSE shareholders want to give up on the Refinitiv deal which appears to be a decent fit.

"The regulatory hurdles to a successful tie-up are also quite high. For me, this deal seems doomed to fail, given the Chinese appear opposed to it as well."

AFP