Nasdaq has not ruled out buying more of the London Stock Exchange in the coming weeks to add to the near 15 per cent stake it now holds, sources said yesterday.

The LSE's shares soared more than 13 per cent, a day after the US exchange bought 14.99 per cent from two key shareholders and only two weeks since it dropped a proposed takeover offer of £2.4 billion, or 950p per share.

Under UK takeover panel rules, Nasdaq is not allowed to buy more LSE shares for another seven days. At that point it could raise its stake by as much as ten percentage points and must then wait another seven days before it can buy more shares, and could take its holding to 29.9 per cent.

Having dropped its tentative offer, it will have to limit its stake to under 30 per cent for around six months, barring developments such as a rival launching a bid, or the LSE agreeing to a takeover.

Nasdaq's purchase of the 14.99 per cent stake at 1,175p a share also means that if it launches a full bid it must offer other shareholders at least the same price.

The sources said the purchase of the stake helps Nasdaq keep its options open, giving the exchange a head start should it decide to launch a new offer for the LSE while giving it a lucrative exit should another bourse outgun it in a bidding war.

"They (Nasdaq) could keep buying shares and then make a takeover, or they could just sit and wait. It could be a stalling tactic, stopping Euronext from pursuing an all-share merger," said one industry source who declined to be named. "Either way it's a very shrewd move."

The move also pushes the LSE's past suitors Euronext and Deutsche Boerse, who are under pressure from key shareholders to merge, back to the negotiating table.

Euronext, Deutsche Boerse and the LSE declined to comment on Nasdaq's move. ..SUPL: