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January 19: We’re trying to unpick what’s going on between Nasdaq and the London Stock Exchange. This morning, CNBC reported that the two had had “some preliminary discussions” and that Nasdaq “could make a bid at some point”. I may be wrong, but my guess is that no offer is actually on the table yet but that Nasdaq is watching closely where Macquarie’s bid goes. On current form, the answer to that is nowhere: the LSE today formally rejected Macquarie’s 580p a share hostile bid. My own reading of the body language suggests that the LSE hopes Macquarie’s bid will run its course and fail, leaving the way clear for Nasdaq to move in late February or March, by when the NYSE should have turned itself into a corporation. It is an open secret in New York that both the NYSE and Nasdaq would love a deal with London. Neither would struggle to find the wherewithal – Nasdaq’s own stock, for example, is up 340 per cent in the last 12 months, giving it a valuable currency. For the LSE, this would be perfect. Not only does it not much like the cut of Macquarie’s jib, but if it can hold on long enough for the NYSE to compete with Nasdaq, it might get a splendid auction going. LSE shares are up 4 per cent at 676½p.
The other big corporate news is that Matalan is looking for its fourth chief executive in five years. John King apparently wants to return to the US, although he will stick around until the end of the year. This was clearly decided after the January 11 trading update. Very strange. Is it just that founder and controlling shareholder John Hargreaves is difficult to get on with? Or is it related to Matalan’s weak trading performance? We’ll tell you tomorrow.
Shares in Computacenter fell 5.5 per cent after talks about an MBO failed. The improvement in performance seems to have made the deal rather more expensive.
We will also return to our Debenhams story from this morning. I think we need to take a closer look at the likely valuation of a float and what the return for the private equity owners would be. The return will be jolly good, though probably not the 7-times we might have thought.
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