The Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd (HKEx) flag, flies outside the Exchange Square in Hong Kong on Jan 20, 2017. (EDMOND TANG / CHINA DAILY)
Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. said it won’t proceed with its 29.6 billion-pound (US$36.4 billion) unsolicited takeover bid for London Stock Exchange Group Plc.
While the HKEX’s board continues to see a combination as “strategically compelling,” it’s “disappointed that it has been unable to engage with the management of LSEG in realizing this vision, and as a consequence has decided it is not in the best interests of HKEX shareholders to pursue this proposal
While the HKEX’s board continues to see a combination as “strategically compelling,” it’s “disappointed that it has been unable to engage with the management of LSEG in realizing this vision, and as a consequence has decided it is not in the best interests of HKEX shareholders to pursue this proposal,” the HKEX said in an exchange filing on Tuesday.
LSE last month rejected HKEX’s initial takeover proposal, citing complications ranging from unrest in Hong Kong to potential problems with regulators. HKEX countered with a charm offensive, bringing in UBS Group AG and HSBC Holdings Plc to try to persuade shareholders of the merits of its proposal, Bloomberg reported.
“The whole offer was a farce,” Christopher Cheung, a Hong Kong lawmaker and HKEX shareholder, said in phone interview. “When HKEX announced the offer, I thought they’ve already had discussions with London Stock Exchange and their regulators. It turns out they have not. HKEX now must address the danger of stagnant business growth.”
HKEX rose 1.6% to HK$229.60 as of 9:31 am The benchmark Hang Seng Index declined 0.2%.
LSE investors are due to vote on the exchange’s own US$27 billion deal for data provider Refinitiv before the end of the year. Any further pursuit by HKEX would depend on LSE abandoning that plan. Under UK takeover rules, HKEX has until Oct. 9 to make a formal offer or walk away for at least six months.
Before Tuesday’s about-face, Asia’s largest exchange by revenue had been attempting to regain momentum after last month’s stinging rebuke from LSE’s board. HKEX executives met LSE shareholders in London and New York to try to gain their backing for the takeover plan. The bourse also was in talks to borrow as much as 8 billion pounds to fund the purchase.
Shareholders, though, expressed support for the LSE board’s preferred strategy of buying Refinitiv.
At a London conference last month, HKEX Chief Executive Officer Charles Li envisioned London at the center of trading between East and West with the help of Hong Kong. His LSE counterpart, David Schwimmer, said he preferred direct access to China and didn’t need the special administrative region as a conduit.
“The complicated regulatory, technical and technological landscape in which we operate means we are resolutely focused on our ambitions, whilst also maintaining flexibility in our approach,” Li said in a blog post Tuesday. “We are honest with ourselves too -- as we know some things we try will not develop at the speed which we would like, or in some cases, at all. Our goal is to keep moving forward, reinforcing HKEX’s role and building Hong Kong’s strength as a financial market.”
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