(Adds comments from companies)
By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO, Jan 30 (Reuters) - GFI Group Inc shareholders on Friday voted down a proposed takeover by CME Group Inc, the companies said, opening the door for a hostile bid from rival BGC Partners.
CME Group, the world’s largest futures exchange operator, for months has been locked in a bidding war for GFI Group, a derivatives broker, with BGC Partners Inc.
Michael Gooch, GFI Group’s executive chairman, said he was disappointed shareholders rejected the CME deal. The company plans to “explore strategic alternatives with any and all interested parties to maximize shareholder value,” according to a statement.
Chicago-based CME Group first agreed to acquire GFI Group last July for a total of around $820 million. In September, inter-dealer broker BGC Partners topped CME Group’s initial offer in a hostile bid.
BGC Partners’ latest offer to acquire GFI Group for $6.10 per share is scheduled to expire on Tuesday.
“Our tender offer is the only viable option for GFI stockholders seeking to maximize the value for their shares,” said Howard Lutnick, BGC Partners’ chief executive officer.
CME Group had pursued GFI Group to acquire two units of the company that would have allowed CME to expand its reach in the European energy and global foreign exchange markets.
CME Group had planned to spin off GFI Group’s wholesale brokerage business to a private consortium controlled by GFI Group management, including Gooch.
CME Group and GFI Group “each determined that terminating the merger agreement and related transactions was in the best interest of their respective companies and shareholders at this time,” CME Group said.
GFI Group’s stock price has climbed 80 percent since the day before CME announced its takeover offer in July. CME Group shares have advanced about 15 percent over the same period, while BGC Partners’ shares are down slightly.
Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Dan Grebler and Leslie Adler