Tue, Feb 12, 2019 – 5:50 AM
EURONEXT NV raised its offer for Oslo Bors VPS Holding ASA, valuing the owner of Norway’s national stock exchange at about US$790 million, in an attempt to thwart a rival bid from Nasdaq Inc.
The Franco-Dutch exchange operator offered 158 Norwegian kroner (S$23.16) a share, up from a previous offer of 145 kroner, according to a statement on Monday. The increased offer also exceeds the 152 kroner a share bid by Nasdaq, made on Jan 30.
Euronext’s higher bid puts pressure on the board of Oslo Bors, which has recommended that shareholders accept Nasdaq’s offer and reject Euronext’s overtures. The Oslo Bors directors were caught unawares on Christmas Eve – a public holiday in Norway – when Euronext announced that it had won an auction held by an investment bank. Oslo Bors shareholders owning 25 per cent of the company had hired the bank, Sweden’s Carnegie, to find a bidder willing to take over the whole firm.
By the start of the year, Euronext, which operates stock exchanges in Paris and Amsterdam, had secured the support of 50.5 per cent of Oslo Bors shareholders through a mixture of irrevocable commitments from existing shareholders and direct purchases of shares. Publishing its offer document on Feb 4, Nasdaq, the owner of exchanges in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki, revealed that it had irrevocable commitments from shareholders owning 35.2 per cent of Oslo Bors.
The rival bids will be assessed by Norway’s markets regulator and, ultimately, the country’s finance ministry, a process that could take months.
By increasing its offer, Euronext is forcing Oslo Bors’s board and the regulators to assess which company would make a better steward of Norway’s stock exchange.
While the president of Nasdaq Nordic has said that “we have the strategic, industrial and regional arguments on our side”, the two bidders are in many ways similar companies. Both have a track record of successively running stock exchanges in multiple countries, yet neither have developed a derivatives market large enough to challenge European heavyweights London Stock Exchange Group Plc or Deutsche Boerse AG. Acquiring Oslo Bors will not change that fact for either company. BLOOMBERG
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