The takeover of Liffe, the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange, by Euronext, was a surprise to many observers. Chief among those raising an eyebrow was the London Stock Exchange (LSE), which had been widely tipped to snaffle Liffe ahead of the French-based European stock market consortium.
But the PR campaign, which involved Financial Dynamics as well as Liffe and Euronext (FD acted for Liffe), was singled out by journalists who praised the clarity of communications during the takeover.
There were a number of factors to explain what was, on the face of it, an unexpected result. For example, while offering marginally less to shareholders, Euronext was prepared to pay straight cash rather than LSE's cash plus shares deal.
In uncertain times, investors perhaps preferred having something tangible in their pockets. The existing management also stayed in situ, with Brian Williamson and Hugh Freedberg, chairman and chief executive of Liffe, occupying key positions on the new board.
'Keeping journalists continuously up to date with the serious issues, making it an easy story from which to distill the key points,' was one senior broadcast business editor's take on the PR strategy. A clear delineation of the issues and access to senior management throughout the deal was also a significant factor in providing journalists with the means for accurate, informed analysis of the situation. While Liffe was largely seen to keep its counsel, Williamson's status as a City grandee who understands journalists' needs was well exploited.
Beating LSE to a prize in its own back yard was made possible by a combination of the deal structure, value and sound communications strategy.
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