London Stock Exchange, Deutsche Boerse say merger on track

LONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The London Stock Exchange Group and Deutsche Boerse said their planned $30 billion merger was on track and steadily winning support, despite a looming UK vote on continued membership in the European Union.

A worker shelters from the rain as he passes the London Stock Exchange in the City of London at lunchtime October 1, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

The two companies have been working intensively on preparations to obtain all regulatory approvals since unveiling their plan in February to create the world’s biggest exchange by revenue, Deutsche Boerse Chief Executive Carsten Kengeter said in a statement.

“We have received support from various stakeholders that the merger is the right step, a step which benefits companies, customers and shareholders and at the same time strengthens the financial centers Frankfurt and London,” Kengeter said, without specifying who he meant.

In a move to ease concerns about the tie-up, the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG) earlier on Wednesday said the merger plans would be derailed by neither regulators nor any British exit from the EU.

Analysts have questioned whether EU competition regulators would approve the deal given the large presence the merged group would have in clearing derivatives trades.

“We wouldn’t be embarking on a merger if we thought there would be any problems,” LSEG Chairman Donald Brydon said in response to a question at the group’s annual shareholder meeting.

Britain, home to Europe’s biggest financial center, votes on June 23 on whether to remain in the EU. Any vote in the referendum to leave the bloc could create major uncertainty for the country’s financial services industry.

Asked if he thought a UK exit from the bloc or “Brexit” would affect the planned merger, Brydon replied: “No”.

Brydon said he still expects the merger to be completed by the end of 2016 or early in 2017.

The U.S.-based Intercontinental Exchange said in March it was considering a counter-offer for LSEG.

LSEG Chief Executive Xavier Rolet remained silent throughout Wednesday’s meeting, following comments he made in a media interview that were critical of ICE.

The company issued a “clarification statement” on Monday after discussions with Britain’s Takeover Panel about recent comments made by Rolet, who will retire if the deal goes ahead.

It said Rolet’s views in one interview regarding ICE were his own, and that he has held no discussions with the U.S. exchange regarding its strategy.

ICE was not mentioned at Wednesday’s meeting, which focused on matters such as cyber threats, climate change and how to get more listings.

LSEG is due to hold an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders in the coming weeks to vote on the merger. ICE would have to present any bid a week before that meeting.

LSEG reported a 8 percent rise in first-quarter revenue to 358.9 million pounds ($522 million), helped by growth at its FTSE Russell, capital markets and clearing units.

Deutsche Boerse also reported an 8 percent rise in first quarter net revenue to 649 million euros ($735 million), which it attributed largely to index derivatives and commodities that helped its Eurex derivatives business segment generate record revenue in the period.

“It is thus fair to expect that we will achieve our targeted double-digit profit growth for 2016,” Deutsche Boerse Chief Financial Officer Gregor Pottmeyer said.

The group is targeting growth of 10-15 percent annually in adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT).

Writing by Huw Jones; editing by Sinead Cruise, Jason Neely and David Stamp