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Good morning and welcome back to work if you weren’t in last week.
This week kicks off with more to-ing and fro-ing between Nasdaq and the London Stock Exchange ahead of the first closing date for Nasdaq’s bid on Thursday. This morning’s response to the LSE defence document, published over Christmas, is aggressive. Not only does it accuse the LSE of “milking its dominant position” and making “derisory” cost cuts. Nasdaq also says, for the first time publicly I think, that if its bid fails it might sell its 29 per cent stake. “Without Nasdaq your LSE shares would be worth far less,” it says on the cover. Again, the US exchange urges LSE shareholders to accept its £12.43 offer, arguing it is “full and fair”. LSE shares have been drifting down since the middle of December. Today, despite talk at the weekend and this morning of very strong trading figures coming out this week, LSE shares are off another penny at £12.82. But Nasdaq still has work to do.
A very strong trading statement from Michael Page has driven the shares in the recruitment company up almost 5 per cent this morning. Q4 gross profits would be nearly a third higher than last year, it said.
BA has confirmed the details of its pensions deal with the unions, which we wrote about in Saturday’s paper. A lively debate now begins on whether this clears the way for someone to make a bid for BA (Collins Stewart says yes) or whether foreign ownership laws and open skies talks would prevent this, as Citigroup claims.
Jessops, the seller of photographic equipment, has become the latest specialist retailer to struggle over Christmas. It said this morning that sales in the run-up to Christmas fell sharply compared with the year before because of supply problems for some of the most popular models of camera. It also blamed a lack of demand for compact digital cameras. The shares fell 13 per cent.
Check out the transcript of our interview with HSBC chairman Stephen Green. Pick you way down and you will see him admitting to “execution mistakes” in his answer to Peter Thal Larsen’s question about Household’s problems. He also admits to being slow off the mark in eastern Europe but sounds quite aggressive about the insurance business. Investment banking, he thinks, “earns at least the group average return on investment, it’s just fine” – which is a long way short of exciting. That the chairman of a bank as conservative as HSBC should have chosen to defend his bank’s record during its close period indicates how jumpy he feels about how badly it is perceived at the moment. We’ll have more to say about all this in tomorrow’s paper.