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January 27: What hopes there were for Macquarie Bank’s bid for the London Stock Exchange receded further today when the head of the New York Stock Exchange said he wanted to play an active role in the consolidation of Europe’s stock exchanges. Speaking in Davos, John Thain said: “We will be well positioned to participate in the consolidation that I think is going to take place, both in the US and globally, particularly I think in Europe.” He added that he hoped the NYSE would play a “leadership role” in that process and would be ready to act before the end of 2006. Thain’s remarks pushed the LSE’s stock up another 9p to 705½p - even further away from the 580p a share that Macquarie has offered. Go to our special LSE page on FT.com to remind yourself of the background.
The battle for Reg Vardy got even more exciting this morning. Pendragon, whose earlier 800p bid for Vardy was trumped by an 875p bid from Lookers earlier this month, has turned on its rival. It has made a bid for Lookers as well as Vardy in a three-way tie-up that would create a company worth about £900m and with about 6 per cent of the British car market. Pendragon’s bid for Lookers - 1.15 new shares for each Lookers one held - is worth about 600p. Pendragon is urging Vardy shareholders to reject the higher offer from Lookers in favour of its lower one with the promise that they will benefit more from owning shares in a group which combines all three businesses. Lombard will chew over all this for tomorrow’s paper. Fascinating stuff. The full details are available online.
It’s not very often that I find myself siding with John Reid, the defence secretary, when he is under fire from John Humphrys but this morning’s Today Programme was an exception. He put up a persuasive defence of how the government had handled the Qinetiq privatisation. Listen to it via the Today website (the interview was at 8.10) or read our paper tomorrow.
John Studzinski seems to have been sidelined at HSBC. The Wall Street Journal carried a great scoop on it this morning. He is apparently going to be an adviser to Steven Green, the chairman, and will focus on clients. Stuart Gulliver, his co-head of the investment bank, will take charge. That at least is the plan: nothing finalised yet and different people put different complexions on it, depending on their allegiances. We are chasing Studz and Gulliver through the snows of Davos.
Rank has found a new chief executive to succeed Mike Smith, who was due to retire at some point this year. The appointment has come a bit earlier than expected. The lucky man chosen to take over this hodge-podge of leisure businesses and takeover target is Ian Burke, former chief executive of Thistle Hotels and currently in charge of Holmes Place. His track record suggests a break-up could be on the cards.
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