News wire service Reuters has put the Chinese state-owned conglomerate CITIC Group as the frontrunner in a three-horse race to buy Russell Investments from London Stock Exchange. Reuters last month had Towers Watson as the most likely acquirer.
Reuters reported last week that CITIC was in negotiations with LSE for a deal reputedly worth about US$1.8 billion. Formal bids closed last month, with speculation putting the remaining three bidders as Towers Watson, CITIC and Chinese games manufacturer Shanda Group.
LSE bought the Russell group from Northwestern Mutual last year for US$2.7 billion, with its index business being the main area of interest. The multi-manager and investment consulting businesses were then put up for sale this year, with advice from JP Morgan Chase. Initially, it was thought that a private equity firm or a European-based manager was the most likely buyer but none materialised.
This month Towers Watson announced a merger with Willis Group, which some say may complicate a bid for Russell, although others say it gives Towers Watson more firepower to complete a deal. The Willis merger will not be completed until late this year.
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