Hong Kong make shock £32 billion bid for the London Stock Exchange

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing has made a surprise proposal to the board of the London Stock Exchange to "combine the two companies" in a deal worth £32 billion.

The company that owns Hong Kong’s main stock exchange, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, has made a surprise £32bn bid to buy it’s London rival and counterpart, the London Stock Exchange.

The Hong Kong company said in a statement that it hoped combining the two exchanges would result in the creation of “the largest and most significant financial centres in Asia and Europe.”

Shares in the London Stock Exchange Group rose by more than 11% as the news broke, but the initial flurry cooled and fell back as the financial world adjusted to the news.

The bid marks a bold move for Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, as it comes just after the LSE’s £22 billion ($27 billion) deal to acquire financial data company Refinitiv; a deal the London Stock Exchange is hoping transforms it into a global markets and information powerhouse with the express aim of competing with rival Michael Bloomberg’s financial data empire. However, the bid from HKXCF is reported to be dependent on the LSE scrapping its plans to buy Refinitiv.

Charles Li, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong company expressed his desire for the deal to come to fruition, and proclaimed the deal would “redefine global capital markets for decades to come. Together, we will connect East and West, be more diversified and we will be able to offer customers greater innovation, risk management and trading opportunities.”

Following the bid, the London Stock Exchange confirmed it had received what it described as an “unsolicited, preliminary and highly conditional” offer from Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing and released a statement adding that “the board … will consider this proposal and will make a further announcement in due course”.

Analysts have described the deal as a potential “non-starter,” highlighting the London Stock Exchange share price staying well below the offer price as a sign that investors aren’t confident in the deals chances of success.

Some have noted that political factors may come into play in what will be seen as the first real test for a post-Brexit Britain and how, without the EU, it’s high value financial services industry could become fair game.  In the past the EU have blocked mergers between the LSE and it’s rivals including one in 2017 which would have resulted in a merger between the London Stock Exchange and Germany’s Deutsche Boerse.

As the political battleground in the UK is played out around the perceived independence Brexit is designed to deliver, this could be a huge reason for the bid to fail.  Neil Wilson, an analyst at Markets.com told the BBC: “The UK government may not wish to see such a vital symbol of UK financial services strength, and indeed a strategic asset, to be owned by foreigners. Effectively it would hand it over to the Chinese through the Hong Kong back door.”

The London Stock Exchange seems to be committed to its original plan, stating it would be continuing with its own proposed acquisition of Refinitiv.

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