By Terje Solsvik
OSLO (Reuters) – Nasdaq withdrew its offer for Oslo Bors on Monday, giving pan-European exchange Euronext free rein to pursue its bid for the Norwegian stock market operator after a five-month battle.
Euronext secured approval from Norway’s Ministry of Finance this month to buy more than 50% of Oslo Bors for 158 Norwegian crowns per share, effectively blocking Nasdaq’s bid. Both had valued one of Europe’s few independent stock market operators at around 6.8 billion Norwegian crowns (614.65 million pounds).
Both Euronext, which runs exchanges in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Lisbon and Dublin, and Nasdaq are looking to expand their portfolios but opportunities are scarce as market operators either already belong to international groups or their shareholders want to remain independent.
Norway rejected Nasdaq’s argument that no takeover should be allowed unless a two-thirds stake was obtained, a demand that could have blocked Euronext as the U.S. company had secured backing from around 35% of owners.
Nasdaq, which had won the support of the Norwegian market operator’s major investors DNB and KLP, said it would now release those owners from their obligations.
Neither Oslo Bors’ management, nor DNB, which holds a 20% stake, or KLP, which holds 10%, had been consulted head of Euronext’s surprise Dec. 24 bid, and the three immediately began searching for an alternative bidder.
While Nasdaq entered the fray in late January, eventually driving up the bid to 158 crowns from Euronext’s initial 145 crowns offer, it was unable to overcome Euronext’s early support of more than half the Oslo Bors shareholders.
DNB and KLP said they had not yet decided whether to sell their shares or not, but would meet to discuss the way forward.
“We’ve not yet decided what to do, but we hope to find a good solution with Euronext,” DNB spokesman Thomas Midteide said, while a spokeswoman for KLP said the pension provider would coordinate its approach with DNB.
Shares in Euronext moved 0.2% higher at 0802 GMT, while those of Oslo Bors had not been traded.
($1 = 8.6855 Norwegian crowns)
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