There were growing speculation in Germany Friday that stock market operator Deutsche Börse might transfer its headquarters to London in its charm offensive to woo the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
Deutsche Börse's bullish about winning over the LSE
The German government, politicians and labour representatives all expressed concern Friday that German national prestige damaged and jobs lost if a merged company were to be move its headquarters from the Main river in Frankfurt to the Thames in London.
"I can only call on Deutsche Börse to retain its headquarters in Frankfurt," if a merger with LSE were to come about, Green Party politician Christine Scheel, head of the German parliament's financial committee, told business daily Handelsblatt.
The finance expert of the opposition conservative Christian Democratic Union ( CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), Heinz Seiffert, also said that politicians should do everything to ensure that the decision regarding the merged company's future headquarters should fall in Germany's favour.
Deutsche Börse in Frankfurt
In the battle for the LSE, Deutsche Börse appears to be pulling out all the stops to convince the LSE of the virtues of a Frankfurt-London tie-up rather than a merger with Frankfurt's arch-rival, Paris-based rival Euronext.
The German company has so far put a bid of just under €2 billion ($2.6 billion) on the table for the London market.
But, in an effort to win over the LSE, Deutsche Börse has not only changed its official language to English, but has reportedly offered to manage the combined cash equities markets out of London and has also offered LSE chief Clara Furse that job.
Furthermore, newspaper reports this week said the operator of the Frankfurt stock exchange was ready to raise its offer and might even consider selling its Luxembourg-based learstream unit, which many observers saw as the main stumbling block to a London-Frankfurt tie-up.
Werner G. Seifert
Furse met with Deutsche Börse chief Werner Seifert (pictured) in London on Thursday.
A spokesman for the German group said the talks had been "friendly, constructive and professional". He declined to provide any further details. Furse was said to be meeting Euronext boss Jean-Francois Theodore on Friday. Those talks were confidential and their outcome would not be made public, well-informed sources in Paris told AFP.
The negotiations were likely to last weeks rather than days. A German finance ministry spokesman insisted that the government expected the decision about the location of the headquarters of any merged group to fall in Frankfurt's favor.
The merger talks were an expression "of the strength of Germany as a financial centre", the spokesman said. And that strength would be further enhanced in the event of a merger.
Fear of loss of jobs
But, Deutsche Börse's employees appear to be alarmed that they could lose their jobs.
The Financial Times Deutschland reported in its Friday edition that the group's works council saw "urgent need for consultation" between employee representatives and management on the matter.
Chairman Seifert had insisted that there would be no compulsory redundancies if a merger went ahead. And financial sources said Friday that such fears were "unfounded".
Indeed, jobs could be in greater peril if a merger did not take place and Frankfurt saw its importance as a stock market dwindle, the sources said. Deutsche Börse refused to comment on the report.