Stock exchange takeover hailed

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A constallation of several European stock exchanges called Euronext is offering to take over the Oslo Stock Exchange for NOK 6.2 billion. While its director Bente Landsnes calls the bid “surprising,” major investors seem to support it, with 49.6 percent already agreeing to sell their stakes.

The Oslo Stock Exchange has suddenly become the target of a takeover bid that seems to be well-received. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Svein Støle, one of the biggest investors on the Oslo Stock Exchange (Oslo Børs), called the pending takeover “a good solution.” He told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) when the news broke on Christmas Eve that he’s among those accepting Euronext’s offer.

“I think it can be a good solution both for the Norwegian securities market and for shareholders that Oslo Børs merges with a strong international player that has stock exchange operations as its core operation,” Støle told DN. He holds around 8 percent of the shares in Oslo Børs VPS Holding ASA, which runs the Oslo exchange.

Invited to bid
A press release issued Monday morning reported that Euronext had contacted the board of Oslo Børs VPS, seeking support for an offer of NOK 6.24 billion (USD 717 million) for all of its outstanding shares. Euronext had been invited by a group of Oslo Børs shareholders to evaluate buying shares, and wound up with binding agreements for 49.6 percent.

Euronext is offering NOK 145 per share, equal to a premium of 32 percent above Oslo Børs’ closing price on December 17, and 34 percent over the average price for the past three months.

Euronext is itself a stocklisted company that owns stock exchanges in Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Portugal, Great Britain and Ireland. It offers stock trading and derivatives, along with information services tied to stocklisted companies.

‘Strong faith’ in Oslo exchange
It claimed that it has “strong faith” in the “unique strategic and competitive positions of the Oslo Børs VPS,” pointing to its “leading position” in seafood derivatives and its expertise in oil service and shipping companies. Euronext’s chief executive Stéphane Boujnah told DN the company had long been interested in Oslo Børs, but was surprised when it was contacted around six weeks ago by a securities firm representing shareholders who wanted to sell.

He claimed Euronext hadn’t intentionally planned to break the news on Christmas Eve, but needed to comply with disclosure requirements. He now plans a trip to Oslo right after the Christmas holidays, with a formal bid expected in January.

The head of the Oslo Exchange, Bente Landsnes, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that her staff received an orientation about the offer during the weekend and wasn’t aware of an actual takeover bid in advance. She and her staff will now evaluate the offer, adding that she thinks the offer shows they’ve “done a good job” in making the Oslo Stock Exchange attractive.

Per Eikrem, communications director for the exchange, also said the takeover offer was surprising: “This came very suddenly, it wasn’t expected. We were informed during the weekend.” No other competing bids had come in by mid-day.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund