WITH the sale of West Ham United to an Icelandic bidder and the renewed transatlantic offer by Nasdaq for the London Stock Exchange, it is difficult to avoid the feeling that Britain may be selling its family heirlooms far too freely. The LSE has rejected the Nasdaq bid, as it did an earlier one, but clearly the Americans are determinned to get a firm foothold in the London stock market if they possibly can. There are differing views about the importance of the LSE keeping its British identiity. In one sense it can be seen as a symbol of the pre–eminence of London as a global financial centre but in another it may be regarded as a financial mechanism whose importance and influence are likely to diminish as new ways of doing financial business develop. Last week's plan by seven investment banks, which together are responsible for half the share deals in Europe, to launch their own trading platform was one such straw in the wind. As for the Hammers, Eggert Magnusson's successful 100 million pound deal will doubtless be welcomed by everyone who would like to see this rather special club achieve financial stability; his interest in installing West Ham is the 2012 Olympic stadium is welcome. But in the broader view, with more than one–third of Premiership sides now foreign–owned and foreign–born players in the majority of most teams, the future of English soccer looks uncertain.


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