The Hong Kong stock exchange said Friday it would move forward with its bid for its London counterpart, going directly to investors following unanimous rejection of its unsolicited $36.6 billion takeover offer by the London Stock Exchange’s board.
The LSE (LSE) said in a statement posted to its website it was not interested in the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd. proposal, citing “fundamental concerns about the key aspects” of the proposal, adding it remains committed to acquiring of data and trading company Refinitive Holdings. The proposal would have required the LSE to end that effort.
The bid was made Monday at what had been expected to be a routine meeting and represented a record for a takeover offer for a stock exchange.
Combining the leading exchanges in Europe and Asia would create an entity rivaling the leading U.S. exchanges. Both the Deutsche Bourse and the Toronto Stock Exchange have tried and failed to buy the London exchange.
In a letter to his Hong Kong counterpart, LSE Chairman Don Robert said he’d rather partner with the Shanghai exchange.
“We do not believe HKEX provides us with the best long-term positioning in Asia or the best list/trading platform for china,” the letter said. “We value our mutually beneficial partnership with the Shanghai Stock Exchange, which is our preferred and direct channel to access the many opportunities with China.”
Robert said the LSE was very “surprised and disappointed” HKEX released its proposal publicly. London also objects to the government of Hong Kong’s right to appoint a chairman and five directors to the 13-member governing board. China is the biggest shareholder in the Hong Kong exchange.
HKEX vowed to press ahead anyway, saying it would go directly to shareholders and accusing the LSE board of failing to “properly engage” before declining the offer. Some analysts speculated HKEX would sweeten the deal by upping its cash offer and others suggested it could spark a bidding war that might include the Intercontinental Exchange Inc. or CME Group.
A takeover would have united two exchanges that have been roiled by upheaval: social unrest in Hong Kong over chinese efforts to tighten control and Brexit uncertainty in the United Kingdom as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson moves toward crashing out of the european Union without a deal.
HKEX CEO Charles Li said his proposal is superior to the Refinitiv deal on which LSE shareholders are scheduled to vote at the end of the year.
HKEX bought the London Metal Exchange in 2012