Monday is the new Monday when it comes to bids, contrary to what I said on Friday when deals were going off left, right and centre. This morning, Nasdaq finally pounced on the LSE, offering £12.43 a share and snapping up more shares in the market, this time from Scottish Widows, to lift its holding to 28.75 per cent. The LSE, predictably, has rejected the bid.
As FT Alphaville said this morning, Nasdaq is clearly taking advantage of the doubts sowed about the LSE’s prospects by the rival platform being planned by a group of investment banks (and why not?). If Nasdaq really believed the banks’ plan posed a threat it would surely have waited until March, when it might have been able to pay less than the £12.43 a share minimum it is required to offer until then.
LSE shares are up at around £12.90 today, suggesting the market expects Nasdaq to have to offer more. We will look at how much further it can stretch, test the City’s reaction and ask what Nasdaq plans for Aim (things don’t look good there). Do you think the LSE is worth £2.7bn? Take part in our online poll.
If that were all there was today it would not be bad. However, we will also do more on the riveting battle for ITV. BSkyB’s Friday purchase of 17.9 per cent of ITV will be discussed at Ofcom today but whether it goes further depends on their definition of “material influence” and whether BSkyB now has it at ITV. It is worth noting that Nasdaq has been allowed to hold 25 per cent of the LSE. But the media tends to get treated differently. Will Whitehorn of Virgin was on Radio Five Live last night with Jeff Randall and me, making an impassioned but not entirely convincing case. Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson was on as well. He saw Sky’s move as a simple attempt to thwart NTL but took the opportunity also to say how amazing it is that ITV’s board will probably have taken at least six months to find a chief executive, when it took him six weeks at Channel 4. BSkyB shares are down only 1.3 per cent this morning and ITV shares, having fallen sharply at first this morning, are now down just 1.4 per cent.
Today’s other big story is the board reshuffle at Standard Chartered. After less than four years, chairman Bryan Sanderson can’t be bothered any more and is off. He will be replaced by chief executive Mervyn Davies, who in turn will be succeeded by his finance director, Peter Sands. Whatever you think of Higgs-ian correctness, this is absurd. Davies is highly regarded alright, but he has placed some big bets in recent years with a number of significant investments. They look like sound at the moment but might look very different in a couple of years. Davies will hardly be the right person to assess them dispassionately. And the chances of Sands being able furrow with such an energetic and well-regarded ex-CEO as chairman? Very limited. What is it about banks that makes them think they should be able to get away with this sort of thing?
Stand by for more this week on the battle for Corus. It seems inconceivable that Corus won’t engage with CSN, which tabled a counter-proposal on Friday, and that Tata Steel won’t be forced to raise its offer.
Rumour of the Day: Shares in Home Retail Group, owner of Argos and Homebase, are up 2 per cent on talk of a private equity bid, as suggested in the Sunday Times. Catch up with today’s chatter on FT Alphaville.