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April 18: The New York Stock Exchange, we think, has been sounding out shareholders in the London Stock Exchange in an effort to buy a stake to counter Nasdaq’s shareholding. We are checking this out but hear the NYSE is using Citigroup to sniff out potential sellers. The NYSE is already talking to the LSE about a possible merger. LSE shares rose 2 per cent to £12.59½ in fairly normal volume.

Standard Life has received and rejected a number of approaches for the company, including one for an all-share merger (which we gather came from Resolution Life) the life assurer said today. The news came as it said its flotation, due later this year, would value it at up to £5.5bn. Read Lex online now or take a look at Standard Life’s own statement detailing its plans. A float looks unstoppable at this stage but the bid interest is unlikely to go away after that.

We remain fascinated by developments at Goldman Sachs where, Hank Paulson, chief executive, has ordered his bankers – especially those in London – to stop making such quasi-hostile takeover bids for public companies as the one for Mitchells & Butlers and BAA. It is possible that this may so rile the likes of Richard Sharp, who runs European principal investment, that they will walk. It also looks like a slap in the face of Michael Sherwood, the co-head of Goldman Sachs in Europe and arguably the one who helped start this internal row by backing Philip Green in his attempt to take control of Marks and Spencer two years ago. Who stays and who leaves, however, is something we’re still looking into. Paulson seems to have realised that to take the reputational risk that goes with doing this sort of business is one thing if you are winning the bids and reaping the benefits. But if Goldman gets rebuffed at every turn, there is only the reputational risk, and there isn’t much profit in that.

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