Fishy business in Norway. Large shareholders in Oslo Bors pitch to be bought out by Euronext, owner of the Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon and Dublin exchanges. A deal is sealed without the backing of Oslo’s board. Another venerable European bourse falls to the sector’s technology-fuelled consolidation wave.

A hostile bid? Euronext insists not. It has support from shareholders representing 45.2 per cent of Oslo. Euronext owns a further 5.3 per cent. Oslo will get access to its technology and thrive in commodities. Norway is the world’s bigger salmon farmer; seafood derivatives are a big thing. Go long and thanks for all the fish is its mantra. Oslo says unspecified alternatives are possible, however, and urges shareholders to wait. In February last year, Euronext set out terms for a takeover. Then Oslo baulked, citing a strategic review. DNB bank, with a 20 per cent stake, is silent. Nasdaq could yet emerge as a rival suitor.

Europe’s financial infrastructure needs consolidation. National exchanges are an anachronism. The fastest growth lies in big data. In the US, there are worries about the dominance of the biggest players. Europe is still building its single capital market.

Paris-headquartered Euronext is a minnow compared with rivals Deutsche Börse and the London Stock Exchange. Oslo’s trading ancillary services as well as commodities businesses would help diversification away from cash trading, which accounts for a third of revenues. Hostile or friendly, Euronext is not hugely overpaying. Oslo is priced at 18 times earnings — just above the 17 multiple paid when it bought the Irish Stock Exchange in 2017, reckons UBS.

Potential costs savings are unspecified, however. Euronext has not had access to the books. Nor will the deal end heavy reliance on equities trading, which could disappoint this year if investor nervousness curbs market volumes. Like slippery fish, transformational opportunities are hard to catch.

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