Panel ticks off Rothschild

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Rothschild has been publicly reprimanded by the Takeover Panel for the advice it gave BT in its takeover of PlusNet. Big, big ouch. Not only is it extremely rare for the panel to put out statement of criticism like this, but Rothschild employs Richard Murley, the panel’s former director general. Rothschild’s mistake was utterly elementary: it seems not to have advised BT that its purchase of shares in PlusNet would take its holding above the 30 per cent threshold that triggers a mandatory offer. Although BT had already posted its offer document, the effect of the mistake was to deny it potentially important regulatory wiggle-room. What is more, the Panel says this is the third time that Rothschild has made this sort of mistake. Warner Mandel’s was the lead name on the deal press release last year.

Vodafone’s victory in the battle for control of Hutchison Essar in India remains our biggest story. Andrew Parker, our telecoms editor, listened in on the conference call and was struck by the company’s insistence that this deal need not preclude other takeovers. Shareholders seem to be supportive, despite the fact that it will be earnings dilutive until year five. Vodafone also sounded very firm about not selling out of Verizon Wireless in the foreseeable future. Andrew has delayed his flight to the 3GSM conference in Barcelona so he can bring you lots in tomorrow’s paper about how the numbers stack up and what it means for Arun Sarin’s strategy. (Incidentally, you’ll be able to keep up with the goings on at 3GSM through regular updates and analysis on FT.com).

LSE shares are bearing up well, considering the failure of Nasdaq’s bid this weekend. They are only off a few pennies at £12.79. No sign yet of the LSE buying back its own shares, as it stands ready to do, but the exchange this morning reported record trading figures for January. In its monthly trading update, it said the value of UK equities traded in January was a record £327bn, up 22 per cent on the same period last year, while the number of equity trades was up 50 per cent at 9.8m. Check out my blog from Saturday for some options on what might happen to the LSE now.

MyTravel has confirmed Sarah Spikes’s great scoop this morning that it is merging with Thomas Cook. We have video of her online explaining the deal but we’ll also do more in the paper. Of course, it blows apart First Choice’s auction of its package holiday business as these two were the most likely bidders. First Choice shares are down 14 per cent.

Rebecca Bream is back from partying with the men with dirty fingernails at the Cape Town mining conference just in time to pick up today’s story about Aim-listed Urasia Energy being bid for by Canada’s Uranium One. She says this will create the world’s second largest uranium producer. If this goes ahead, the enlarged company would be the largest on Aim by some distance. Expect a move to the main market.

Tony O’Reilly has succeeded in buying full control of APN News & Media in Australia.

And yet another software company in trouble. Adamind said it has had investigators appointed to it by the FSA. It says it understands this relates to “circumstances, statements and/or behaviour occurring prior to the Company making an adverse trading statement on 22 June 2006”.

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