European stock exchanges agree to $30 billion merger

FRANKFURT, Germany - The London Stock Exchange and Germany's Deutsche Boerse say they are merging in an all-stock deal that will leave the German side with a majority in a company worth about $30 billion.

The two exchange operators are calling it a merger of equals that will accelerate their growth and offer customers more products and services -- and said the deal is going ahead even if Britain votes to leave the European Union.

They expect to complete the combination by the first quarter of 2017. The combined company would be worth about $30 billion, based on a stock market value on Wednesday of 10 billion pounds ($14.1 billion) for the LSE and 14.7 billion euros ($16.3 billion) for Deutsche Boerse.

The deal makes sense even if British voters decide to leave the European Union in a referendum June 23, the two sides said, but conceded there are risks to its business from a potential British exit. It said the tie-up would benefit from European Union efforts to create a single capital market and expand the cross-border use of stock and bond markets to finance companies, a project known as capital markets union. They said that a vote to leave would put the capital markets union project at risk.

The companies "believe that the merger is well positioned to serve global customers irrespective of the outcome of the vote" although the outcome "might well affect the volume or nature of the business carried out by the combined group."

They said in a news release Wednesday that they will set up a U.K.-based holding company that will acquire the London Stock Exchange Group PLC and Frankfurt-based Deutsche Boerse AG. When the deal is done, Deutsche Boerse shareholders will hold 54.4 percent of the holding company and Deutsche Bank CEO Karsten Kengeter will be chief executive.

Both companies will name an equal number of board directors; LSE chairman Donald Brydon will serve as board chair.

The company would have headquarters in both London and Frankfurt. The deal needs approval from regulators in the European Union, the U.S. and Russia.