Robert “Bob” Greifeld, chief executive officer of Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., looks at the company’s logo before remotely ringing the Nasdaq New York opening bell on the second day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2011 in Davos, Switzerland. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

Nasdaq Outbids Euronext in Battle for Norway's Oslo Bors

(Bloomberg) -- Nasdaq Inc. is bidding for the main stock exchange in Oslo in a deal that aims to cement its dominance in the Nordic region and push aside a competing offer from Euronext NV.

The U.S. firm offered to buy Oslo Bors VPS Holding ASA for 152 kroner a share, valuing the target at 6.54 billion kroner ($770 million). Oslo Bors’s board of directors has recommended the offer, according to a statement on Wednesday. It comes after Euronext, the Franco-Dutch exchange operator, made a takeover attempt at 5 percent less last month.

The bid from Euronext stirred opposition from local politicians and Oslo Bors’s board, which only learned of its intentions days before the announcement. For Nasdaq, it would bring Norway into the group of Nordic exchanges that already includes Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.

Norway’s Ministry of Finance will decide between the competing bids, based on advice from the Norwegian Financial Supervisory Authority, Nasdaq and Oslo Bors said in the statement. The board of Oslo Bors said the offer from Nasdaq “will provide a better industrial and strategic solution for the Norwegian capital market.”

Euronext declined to comment. Nasdaq will publish its offer document, setting out its plans for Oslo Bors, “on or around 4 February,” the exchange operator said.

“We’ve had contacts with the authorities on many levels,” Lauri Rosendahl, the president of Nasdaq Nordics, said during a press conference in Oslo on Wednesday. “I wouldn’t start speculating about what view the authorities have. We’ve been presenting our approach, our value proposition and they’ve been listening.”

The situation is complicated. Nasdaq said it received “irrevocable” pre-acceptances from investors representing 35.1 percent of the shares in Oslo Bors, including DNB and KLP, the two largest shareholders. That comes after Euronext said in December it had secured the backing of 50.6 percent of the firm’s shareholders.

"It’s pretty obvious to everyone that this situation probably can’t end up with two large shareholders with almost as many shares each,” Oslo Bors spokesman Per Eikrem said by phone. “It must be solved one way or the other.”

DNB, Norway’s biggest bank, said it agrees with the Oslo Bors board’s assessment that the Nasdaq bid is “the best solution” for the exchange.

“We believe that Nasdaq will offer the strategically best solution for the Norwegian capital market and for the Norwegian Central Securities Depository,” DNB said in a separate statement.

Rosendahl said he’s “not going to start speculating on the game theory from here on. We will see how this plays out. We’ve made our value proposition and what we can offer. We have strong support from the management, the board and really important strategic owners of Oslo Bors VPS.”

Norway’s finance minister, Siv Jensen, said the whole process “may take some time and we must do it within the legal framework that exists.”

“We must treat this in an orderly and proper way, and take the time we need to get there,” she said in Oslo on Wednesday.

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