The US company that owns the New York Stock Exchange has said it is considering making an offer for the London Stock Exchange, which is already in merger talks with Germany's Deutsche Börse.
Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) said in a statement to investors on Tuesday that it was "considering making an offer" for the London Stock Exchange Group (LSE), with a final decision on the bid to be made by March 29.
"There can be no certainty that any offer will be made, nor as to the terms on which any offer will be made," said ICE, which was created in 2000 and also owns the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the London-based LIFFE derivatives market among other holdings.
The announcement comes a week after LSE said it was in merger talks with Deutsche Börse, which manages the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The tie-up would create a global player worth at least 20 billion pounds (25.6 billion euros, $28 billion), which could better compete with ICE as well as CME Group, the world's largest derivatives market.
LSE on Tuesday said it had not received a proposal from ICE and that its talks with Deutsche Börse were continuing.
Takeover battle looming
Under British takeover rules, ICE must make an offer for LSE no later than March 29, while Deutsche Börse must either make an offer or announce it will not do so by March 22.
People familiar with ICE's plan told the news agency Bloomberg that the Atlanta-based company was working with advisers including Morgan Stanley to prepare a possible higher offer for LSE.
ICE had concluded that LSE shareholders could be persuaded by a higher offer, the people said, or a counterbid could at the least force Deutsche Börse to increase its offer.
ICE Chief Executive Jeff Sprecher has rapidly expanded the company through acquisitions such as the 2013 purchase of NYSE Euronext, which included London's LIFFE derivatives exchange.
Sprecher is also no stranger to unsolicited offers for competitors. In 2007, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange barely prevailed in its quest to buy the Chicago Board of Trade over an unsolicited $11.8 billion offer from ICE. The ICE counteroffer forced the Chicago Merc to improve its bid three times.
uhe/cjc (Reuters, dpa, AFP)