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Attracting Saudi Aramco IPO still ‘a focus’ for London exchange

LSE said operating profit for last year rose to £626 million. (Reuters)
LONDON: London Stock Exchange Group emerged from what was a troubling 2017 with a 47 percent profit jump despite turgid markets, helping to ease lingering concern over management upheaval and its aborted Deutsche Boerse merger.
The exchange also said that hosting an expected initial public offering of part of Saudi Aramco remains “a focus.”
The company has come under fire from activist investor TCI over the departure of CEO Xavier Rolet in the wake of the collapsed Deutsche Boerse deal but was able to offer a more upbeat message on Friday with full-year results buoyed by record volumes across multiple clearing services and company flotations that hit a three-year high.
Though interim chief David Warren ruled himself out as permanent CEO, the company said it had made “good progress” in its search from a “strong field of high-quality candidates.”
Without a permanent chief executive LSE could be more vulnerable to a potential takeover. TCI, which holds a 5.17 percent stake in LSE, has predicted a 15 billion pound ($20.7 billion) bid for the group from transatlantic rivals ICE and CME Group.
In a conference call with reporters, Warren declined to comment on takeover bids but said that LSE was confident in its standalone prospects.
“I have strong ambition ... to continue in this interim role as the search goes on. (Beyond that) I remain firmly committed to remaining as CFO,” he added.
Warren declined to comment on a timeline for any appointment and did not say whether LSE had spoken to TCI about candidates.
TCI had sought the removal of chairman Donald Brydon over the handling of Rolet’s departure. The former CEO stepped down in November after nearly a decade in the role, during which he transformed the company with a string of deals, lifting its market value from less than £1 billion ($1.4 billion) to almost £14 billion.
Whoever takes over as CEO will be charged with leading LSE’s efforts to woo oil giant Saudi Aramco to London for what is widely expected to be the world’s largest initial public offering.
“It’s very much in our interest to do this. I think there is a lot about London which is very, very attractive ... It certainly has been a focus and continues to be,” Warren said.

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