LSE set to stand alone with diversity plan: analysts

LONDON Wed Jul 20, 2011 8:24am EDT

The London Stock Exchange is seen during ther morning rush hour in the City of London April 11, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville

The London Stock Exchange is seen during ther morning rush hour in the City of London April 11, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

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LONDON (Reuters) - The London Stock Exchange (LSE.L) has boosted its chances of avoiding the clutches of predatory rival Nasdaq OMX (NDAQ.O) by reporting 14 percent growth as a standalone business.

The British exchange, which has been a takeover target since its $3.5bn bid for a Canadian rival collapsed last month, said revenue for its financial first quarter to the end of June rose to 190.2 million pounds ($307 million) from 167.3 million last year.

"The LSE has multiple Plan Bs - not just merger and acquisitions as speculated with Nasdaq but including other possible partners both listed and unlisted," said Daniel Garrod, an analyst at Barclays Capital.

"The LSE is delivering on its organic diversification strategy," Garrod added.

The U.K. exchange's stock is trading around a 12-month high on speculation the LSE may become a takeover target for larger rivals such as U.S. peer Nasdaq OMX or the Singapore Exchange SGXl.SI, traders have said.

The stock exchange has been in the spotlight since the end of June when the group dropped its own merger plan with Canada's exchange TMX Group (X.TO).

The LSE announced a friendly merger with TMX in February but a Canadian consortium named Maple opposed the plan in May, arguing the Canadian exchange must not fall into foreign hands.

The group pulled its TMX bid on June 29 because it could not win enough shareholder support.

LSE shares have since risen by 17 percent as traders have gambled the U.K. exchange would itself become a takeover target.

"There are various influences on the share price in the short term including the ongoing questions regarding industry consolidation," said JP Morgan analyst Rae Maile.

"The fact that earnings estimates remain on an upward trend is likely to be supportive of the share price in the short term," Maile added.

First quarter revenue in the LSE's main markets unit was up 4 percent to 79.7 million pounds, as bond trading rose on the European sovereign debt crisis and more initial public offerings (IPOs) balanced sluggish trading in shares and futures.

The LSE's smaller post-trade unit reported a 58 percent rise to 51.8 million pounds and data services rose by 6 percent to 44.7 million.

"Many of us were closely involved in the TMX deal for months but it is encouraging that, throughout, the firm has remained focused on its core strategy of getting in shape and diversifying the business," said LSE Chief Financial Officer Doug Webb.

LSE shares were 1.8 percent higher at 10.22 pounds at 1130 GMT. (7:30 a.m. ET)

(Editing by Erica Billingham and David Cowell)

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