Euronext Clears Another Hurdle in Effort to Acquire Oslo Bors

(Bloomberg) -- Euronext NV cleared another hurdle in its bid to acquire Norway’s stock exchange after the nation’s markets regulator said the Franco-Dutch exchange operator and rival bidder Nasdaq Inc. would both make suitable owners.

Euronext is now awaiting final approval from Norway’s finance ministry to complete the $790 million takeover of Oslo Bors VPS Group, the company said in a statement Monday. The suitor has the backing of investors holding 53.2 percent of the shares in Oslo Bors, while Nasdaq has 35 percent. Euronext said it “remains confident” about completing the transaction by the end of the second quarter.

The finance ministry, which has until May 14 to decide whether to recognize Euronext as a suitable operator of Norway’s stock market, said it has received the watchdog’s recommendations and may extend the deadline if it needs to gather more information.

“Euronext seem well positioned to win the race,” said Morten Kinander, a professor of securities law at the BI Norwegian Business School. “With a 50 percent-plus share ownership, they are pretty much in control of the company.”

Euronext’s attempt to buy Oslo Bors has been complicated since even before the operator of the Paris and Amsterdam stock exchanges first announced its bid on Christmas Eve. In the weeks before its disclosure, a group of Oslo Bors shareholders had hired an investment bank to find a buyer for their combined stake. Euronext’s public announcement that it had already won the backing of a large pool of investors took the board of Oslo Bors by surprise. The directors went on to invite more potential suitors, prompting U.S. exchange operator Nasdaq to make a counterbid.

While the two biggest shareholders in Oslo Bors -- Norway’s biggest bank and pension fund -- support Nasdaq’s bid, Euronext has the support of a majority of the shares.

Euronext said it plans to give remaining Oslo Bors shareholders an opportunity to sell their stock under the same terms through a new or re-opened tender offer. Shares of Euronext climbed 0.9 percent to 57.15 euros as of 12:12 p.m. in Paris.

In a separate statement, Nasdaq also said that the regulator deemed it a “fit and proper” owner of the Oslo exchange.

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