June 23 (Reuters) - London Stock Exchange (LSE.L) faces a nail-biting fight for Canadian peer TMX Group (X.TO) after rival bidder Maple trumped the LSE's sweetened offer with counterbid worth C$3.8 billion ($3.9 billion).
Here is a compilation of shareholder and analyst comments regarding the two deals.
The LSE still has an opportunity to bring in someone with deeper pockets and I really think they want this. They need an external capital at this point. I don't think they have the firepower with their balance sheet. They tried leveraging up with the special dividend, but it didn't work. What really counts now is cash. I don't think people are buying into the vision as much as they'd hoped.
A key weakness the TMX-LSE merger deal has is that anything they do for the Canadians, they seem to have to do for London.
We haven't heard anything about those major (LSE) shareholders -- what they want, what they think. Are they passive? ... Who knows what kinds of pressure there is from their shareholders.
On a cash basis, Maple appears to have the higher ground. From a strategic standpoint, LSE is superior.
I don't know that (LSE) can (raise the bid), because they are running into pressures on the UK side -- they're saying, "Listen, how come we're giving these colonials such a great deal over there? We're the London Stock Exchange." So, there is a wall at some point.
As Wellington said at the battle of Waterloo, "It was a close run thing."
My objections to Maple would be significantly less if the whole cartel would agree to bring the percentage down to say, 45 percent, in total, over time. The independence of markets is consummately important.
MATHIEU ROY, VICE-PRESIDENT, PORTFOLIO MANAGER, LOUISBOURG INVESTMENTS
I think that (LSE) would have to do something more if they want to feel good about winning. I believe the Maple sweetener is good -- not so much for the extra C$2.00 per share but more for the move to offer 80 percent of the price in cash (from 70 percent). It makes their bid "firmer", with C$40 of the C$50 available in cash. The LSE-TMX merger is paper in nature. There's uncertainty on how the group would trade assuming it gets approved.
ALISON CROSTHWAIT, GLOBAL TRADING STRATEGY ANALYST, INSTINET
At this point, they're only hurting each other if they continue to one-up each other -- in the sense, from a game perspective or a strategy perspective. They're now basically where they were before: Maple has a slightly better bid financially than the LSE does.
What surprises me is that, increasingly, I'm hearing a little bit of, "Perhaps, neither of the bids will happen." It is possible neither of them will happen ... So there's still risk in this.
I don't think they can do this again, because they'll just end up where they are right now, which is with higher bids and no relative difference ... I think this has to come down to shareholders accepting the regulatory risk, accepting the future growth potential and deciding what is the better deal they want to go with.
I have never fully understood the value proposition of the Maple deal. And I continue to feel that the Maple deal is more protectionist than pro-actively value-creating.
CHRIS ALLEN, NEW YORK-BASED EXCHANGES ANALYST AT EVERCORE PARTNERS
You have the whole financial community in Canada on one side or the other -- the majority is on Maple but the other major players are on the TMX side -- and obviously it's a political issue. So I think it's a low probability that another exchange would want to stick its nose in there right now. It's complicated with a lot of moving parts and a lot of players involved at the end of the day.
If an exchange was thinking about doing something they'd be more apt to sit on the sidelines and look at how the whole thing plays out and see where the cards lie.
MICHAEL SMEDLEY, CEO OF MORGAN MEIGHEN & ASSOCIATES
It would seem incongruous that there would be a positive vote for the merging on the 30th, because if it were, it would end the process.
The directors of the exchange can surely find a way of deferring the final decision if it seems called for by the shareholders.
I think, financially, you are dealing with the financial essence of this country -- they could pay anything within reason.
It would seem that Maple has an advantage in the type of regulatory considerations in its direction.
It would seem much healthier to continue to hold direct shares of the TMX and put some reliance on the financial strength and ingenuity of the Canadian financial community to drive the exchange forward.
RICHARD FOGLER, PRESIDENT, KINGWEST & CO
I told them (LSE) they'd better bump the price or get off the deck.
I think they've (LSE) got two things two do: give up and go home, or make a seriously increased offer.
What's going to have to happen is that the joint offer is going to have to make an offer to the TMX independent of the LSE shareholder.
If they keep inching up by a couple of bucks, it'll be like a silly auction where people are paying no attention because it's a small thing. I think they have to make one rather large step up to put some pressure on the Maple Group.
I will not decide how I will vote until these guys are finished their games.
If the LSE wants to win, they have to change their price.
On TMX share price movement:
Evidently people are continuing to anticipate there will be further moves but probably you're seeing with the C$4 special dividend from the LSE group and by Maple raising its bid, that's probably most of the action until we see what the outcome of the vote on the 30th of June is.
You don't know whether the LSE bid is going to go through, will be voted in favor of, and you don't know what the totality of the Maple bid is worth.
$1=$0.98 Canadian Reporting by John McCrank, Solarina Ho, Trish Nixon, Claire Sibonney; editing by Rob Wilson and Peter Galloway