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Hong Kong stock exchange makes $36.6 billion offer for London stock exchange

Key Points
  • HKEX confirms it has made a proposal to the Board of London Stock Exchange Group to "combine the two companies."
  • The deal values the LSE at about £29.6 billion ($36.6 billion).
  • LSE recently agreed to purchase data group Refinitiv for $27 billion but HKEX said that deal wouldn't happen under its proposal.
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Hong Kong stock exchange makes offer for London stock exchange

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) said Wednesday it had made a proposal to the board of London Stock Exchange Group Plc (LSE) to "combine the two companies," in a deal which values the LSE at about £29.6 billion ($36.6 billion).

The HKEX said the deal would be funded by a combination of existing cash and a new credit facility. It cautioned, however, that its statement to the market should be considered as an announcement to make a possible offer and is not confirmation of a firm intention to bid.

The statement from HKEX said a further announcement will be made "as and when appropriate."

HKEX has proposed £20.45 a share in cash, as well as 2.495 newly issued HKEX shares. LSE shares rallied shortly after 10:00 a.m. London time, rising by 8.5% before giving up some of those initial gains.

In a subsequent conference call held for media and analysts, HKEX executives described the deal as a means of connecting trading and capital between East and West. They added the deal would create an 18-hour trading zone and also help the rise of the Chinese yuan as a globally-traded currency.

Charles Li, the chief executive of HKEX, played down any tension surrounding a Chinese firm taking control of a strategic U.K. brand with access to sensitive market information.

"We are not a Chinese company. We are not even a Hong Kong-only company. We are a global company," he said.

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'Highly complementary'

HKEX said it expected key LSE management to keep their jobs and work for the new owners.

"The board of HKEX believes that the two businesses are highly complementary and as such, looks forward to working with the relevant authorities to deliver a clear path to completion," the HKEX said.

HKEX added that the proposed deal would only go ahead if LSE backs down from its plan to buy Refinitiv. The data group, which is majority owned by the private equity group Blackstone, was last year spun out of the news wire service Reuters.

LSE had announced plans to spend $27 billion on Refinitiv in order to provide a complete one-stop-shop to banks and brokers who need a platform for trading, hardware and a continuous flow of data and news. It was considered a strategy that would directly challenge Bloomberg's terminal and data package.

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In a note released Wednesday, analysts at Swiss bank UBS suggested the ambition to buy Refinitiv may see LSE reluctant to entertain the HKEX interest.

"Given the recent transformational announcement by LSE to acquire Refinitiv in early August, made by a CEO just 12 months into his role, we would be surprised to see LSE's management and board prefer a takeover bid from HKEX," said UBS.

UBS added that recent protests in Hong Kong could also act as a brake on any deal.

HKEX is already the owner and operator of the London Metal Exchange, the world's largest market in options and futures contracts on base and other metals. It bought the LME in 2012 for £1.4 billion.

—Reuters contributed to this article.