Dubai firm plans bid for OMX shares

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UAE’s Dubai International Financial Center may bid for the Sweden’s OMX AB (OMH.ETR), according to a report published by the London-based Financial Times on Sunday.

OMX had already accepted a $3.7 billion offer on Friday from the US exchange Nasdaq. The Financial Times said the offer from state-owned Dubai International Financial Center, which owns the Dubai International Financial Exchange, would top the bid placed by Nasdaq. OMX has not as yet made a comment on the news report. OMX is the fifth-largest exchange in Europe, and is 6.6% owned by the Swedish government.

Further fuelling speculation is the fact that OMX's former chief executive, Per Larsson, has been CEO of Dubai International since July. Larsson resigned as chief executive of the Swedish exchange in 2003 after its amalgamation with the Finnish exchange, HEX. He'd been with the company for 18 years.

The state-owned Dubai International Financial Center is headed by the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Its stock market, the Dubai International Financial Exchange, is relatively new, having been founded in September 2005. Yet it appears to have already laid the groundwork for international expansion as part of the Dubai government's bid to become a financial hub for the Middle East.

Last week it announced it had acquired a 2.2% stake in Deutsche Bank, making it one of the biggest single non-German investors in the company.

The biggest company to have listed so far is Gold Fields of South Africa, one of the world's largest gold producers. That company is also listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and the London Stock Exchange.

The Dubai International Financial Center said in March that it planned to spend more than $2 billion on acquisitions this year, mostly in Western Europe, with at least one acquisition before July.

Unless it offers a markedly higher bid, the Dubai concern may have trouble breaking up Nasdaq's deal to buy OMX, which runs seven stock exchanges in the Nordic and Baltic regions. Nasdaq has the agreement of the OMX board and several major shareholders, including the powerful Wallenberg family, which owns 11% of the business. Nasdaq needs a foothold in Europe after its rival, the New York Stock Exchange, purchased Euronext earlier this year.

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