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Borsa Italiana Shareholders Favor Takeover

Shareholders in Borsa Italiana voted Wednesday in favor of a change in their rules necessary for a 1.63 billion euros ($2.19 billion) takeover by the London Stock Exchange to go ahead.

Borsa Italiana said that shareholders at a meeting in Milan removed a 10% limit on voting power no matter how great a shareholder's stake, a measure intended to keep the management of the Milan Stock Exchange "congenial."

Each shareholder had until July 31 to communicate to the LSE whether they accepted the takeover offer, and the Borsa Italiana declined to comment on the status, referring the issue to the LSE.

Shareholders in the LSE are also scheduled to vote on the offer Wednesday at a meeting in London. The offer was given formal approval Monday by Italy's antitrust regulator, which said the deal would not restrain competition.

LSE Chief Executive Clara Furse has said she is confident of receiving shareholder approval for the bourse's all-share takeover of Borsa Italiana, a sentiment supported by the Nasdaq Stock Markets' decision to endorse the deal last week.

Nasdaq is the biggest stakeholder in the LSE after a failed acquisition attempt, and there had been speculation that the acrimonious battle during its hostile bid would cause the U.S. exchange's management to oppose the deal.

The New York-based electronic exchange accumulated a 30% stake during its $5.3 billion takeover attempt and has maintained it had no immediate plans to unload the shares.

However, it said last week after meetings with the LSE's senior management that it "concluded that it is an appropriate transaction."

The LSE's offer for Borsa Italiana is its first acquisition move since shareholders rejected Nasdaq's offer and comes amid consolidation of stock exchanges worldwide. The holding companies of the two exchanges said the takeover would create a platform for strong growth on a European and global scale.

Analysts have said the LSE's move appeared aimed at fending off another takeover attempt by the Nasdaq. The London exchange has rebuffed five takeover attempts in two years, including the one by Nasdaq.

But analysts also said the LSE's acquisition of Borsa Italiana would only bolster the British exchange's footprint in Europe and make it an even more attractive takeover candidate for Nasdaq CEO Bob Greifeld. The Nasdaq earlier this year announced an alternative deal to buy Nordic exchange operator OMX.

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