December 15: Macquarie fires first shot at LSE

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December 15: Macquarie Bank this morning launched a 580p a share hostile takeover bid for the London Stock Exchange, valuing the business at £1.5bn. The LSE say this is “wholly inadequate”. This should be taken as a sighting shot by the Australians, especially bearing in mind that investors have been taking quite big stakes at around 614p in the last few days. LSE shares were changing hands at 616½p in lunchtime trading.

Macquarie says it has “no intention” of raising prices for broker services or information services. It has assembled an interesting consortium of backers, although not one with any obvious stock exchange or technology experience. The team includes two hedge funds - CQS and Centaurus - and Spanish private equity firm, Finpro Inversiones. It also includes Matthew Perrin, the young Australian entrepreneur behind the Billabong surf brand.

We’ll tell you lots more in tomorrow’s paper about the details of the bid, the identity of the bidders and Macquarie’s chances of victory. In the meantime, see our first take of the story online, catch up on all the background on FT.com and read Lex at lunchtime. Also, cast an eye over Jeremy Warner’s insightful commentary in The Independent this morning and read our leader from this morning: our view is that Macquarie should be free to bid for the LSE without impediment. You can also read the full offer details online.

Simon Duffy, chief executive of NTL, will step down to the role of executive vice-chairman later today. Coming, as it does, while NTL is in the midst of two huge deals, this is extraordinary. Some people are telling us Duffy is tired; we think there is some question over Duffy’s operational record.

Last week, NTL announced an £817m bid for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Mobile group, which still faces opposition from minority shareholders who object to the price offered. Its efforts to complete a merger with its only UK cable rival, Telewest, have also been complicated by the need to avoid triggering a change of control clause in Telewest’s programming joint venture with the BBC. The cable group will bring in a new chief executive from Comcast, the US cable company – Stephen Burch, head of Comcast’s Atlantic division.

Equally odd: Richard Freudenstein is leaving BSkyB. Although not on the board, he was the number two to James Murdoch, chief executive, and regarded as Murdoch’s obvious successor. Although he said he has no plans to leave BSkyB, some people think he could return to News Corp within the next 18 months. Freudenstein’s departure may complicate any such plans.

Pilkington says it has received a second takeover approach from Nippon Sheet Glass. This one was at 158p a share - up from 150p previously.

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