Euronext relishes Oslo Børs takeover

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The French boss of the pan-European stock exchange Euronext said he planned to celebrate the takeover of the Oslo Stock Exchange (Oslo Børs VPS) with beer and ice cream during Norway’s Constitution Day festivities on Friday. Euronext prevailed in its bid for the exchange after the finance ministry deemed both Euronext and Nasdaq of the US as worthy owners, and didn’t go along with calls for the Oslo exchange to only be taken over by a buyer holding 67 percent of its shares.

PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Euronext has held 53 percent of the Oslo Stock Exchange’s stock since April, while Nasdaq had only acquired 37 percent. The rest was up for grabs, but powerful shareholders DNB and KLP favoured Nasdaq’s offer, as did Oslo Børs’ management.

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported how Norway’s biggest bank and pension fund KLP had put pressure on Finance Minister Siv Jensen to demand that Euronext hold two-thirds (66.67 percent) of the Oslo exchange’s stock in order to win control. Others backing Nasdaq included Sparebanken Vest, Eika Gruppen and Sparebank1-gruppen.

Other shareholders objected to the two-thirds demand, noting that Euronext had already acquired a majority of the Oslo stock exchange’s shares. It all ended up as another loss for DNB this month, after also losing a class action lawsuit filed by unhappy investors over fees charged for active management of funds they didn’t receive.

Stephane Boujinah, chief executive of Euronext, could thus finally claim victory in a takeover battle he launched just before Christmas last year. Euronext’s initial bid, which was later sweetened, itself resulted from calls by a group of minority shareholders in Oslo Børs to find potential acquirers of the venerable Norwegian institution. Nasdaq entered the bidding in late January, but had to face defeat this week.

“I’ll be in Oslo on Friday to follow the celebration of Constitution Day,” a happy Boujinah told reporters after the deal was approved. “I want to see the parade, meet some friends, have some beers and eat ice cream.” He said he was glad neither the finance ministry nor Jensen herself didn’t allow themselves to be influenced by the call for 67 percent ownership.

“What’s important is that the transaction that a majority of shareholders in Oslo Børs wanted has now been approved by the authorities and will be completed,” he said. He’s glad to add the Oslo exchange, which is celebrating its 200-year anniversary this year, to Euronext’s portfolio of stock exchanges in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK.

Oslo Børs management, who hadn’t been informed of the minority shareholders’ call for bids or that Euronext was interested until it made its offer, was also more conciliatory this week. They promised to work “closely” with the new owner, with the goal of taking care of the exchange, its operations and employees “in the best possible manner.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund