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LSE shareholders back Brexit-clouded Deutsche Boerse merger

The German share prize index board and the trading room of Frankfurt's stock exchange are photographed with a circular fisheye lens during afternoon trading session in Frankfurt

London Stock Exchange Group Plc shareholders have overwhelmingly voted to approve a plan to merge with Deutsche Boerse, hoping the deal can go through despite Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

The British company asked its shareholders to back its $27 billion merger with its German counterpart to create a European exchange giant on Monday, dismissing concerns it was “shackling itself to a corpse” after Britain’s EU referendum result.

LSEG Chairman Donald Brydon told an extraordinary meeting of shareholders that he was confident of “satisfactory” regulatory approval for the deal from Brussels.

“There is no reason to think otherwise today,” Brydon said.

Some 50 shareholders gathered for the subdued, short meeting. It was free of demonstrations, with only two questions asked.

LSE said afterwards that more than 99.89 per cent of votes cast at the shareholder meeting were in favour of the deal.

“SHACKLING TO A CORPSE”

Dinesh Jain, an individual shareholder, asked why, given that Britain was leaving the EU, “do we want to shackle ourselves to a corpse”.

The exchange should abandon the merger as it seemed “unlikely” that Germany would now approve it given that Britain would be outside the EU, Jain said.

LSEG should instead to be looking to do deals with “lively” Asian or Latin American exchanges, Jain said.

He also asked whether any American or other exchange had made a counterbid, and about any threat to LSEG’s business from French President Francois Hollande’s desire to repatriate euro-denominated clearing to the eurozone.

Brydon said Hollande’s comments were a measure of how valuable LSEG’s operations were.

“You are quite right, there are some people already seeking to pick over the bones of the UK very, very rapidly indeed. Everyone would be wise to take things a step at a time in this area,” Brydon said

LSEG’s LCH.Clearnet is the main clearing house in Europe for euro denominated swaps.

Brydon denied that LSEG had received any approaches from any company other than Deutsche Boerse.

The New York Stock Exchange’s owner ICE, in May shelved plans to make a counter bid for LSE, putting the brakes on a potential takeover battle in the exchanges sector.

Britain would remain in the EU for at least another two years, during which there was ample time to work out the “optimal structure” for the deal, Brydon said.

Last week, German markets regulator BaFin said it was hard to see how the head office of the merged group could still be in London given that Britain was leaving the EU.

LSEG Chief Executive Xavier Rolet said the group was “extremely well positioned” globally no matter what the outcome of British negotiations with the EU on new trading terms.

Deutsche Boerse is also asking its shareholders to back the deal – the third attempt by the LSE to merge with the German exchange operator in some 16 years – in a postal vote that closes on July 12.

The deal would create the world’s biggest exchange by revenue, forecast at 4.7 billion euros this year from stock, bond and derivatives trading, indexes, market data, and clearing and settlement.

Shares in LSE were down 1.5 per cent at 2,485 pence at 1233 GMT. Deutsche Boerse’s stock was down 0.92 per cent.

Up to Friday’s close, LSE shares had fallen more than 7 per cent since the Brexit referendum but were still up about 9 percent from their close the day before the deal was announced.

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