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Knight Capital Bidding War Begins

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Trading firm Getco Securities has offered to buy embattled competitor Knight Capital Group (KCG - Get Report) for $3.50 a share in cash and stock, after an early August software glitch caused the firm hundreds of millions in losses.

Although $3.50 a share is far below Knight Capital's beginning of year share price above $10, investors should celebrate the unsolicited offer that may yet turn to a bidding war, amid speculation other firms such as Virtu Financial may be circling Knight's assets.

That's because Knight Capital's quick resolution to its trading losses and its takeover offer at a market cap above $600 million will prove financial firms that raise capital quickly in a time of crisis can find a buyer without asking for government support, or going the way of Lehman Brothers and MF Global.

Within days of Knight Capital's early August trading blunder, the company raised $400 million in new capital, which kept the firm in business and may yet pave the way for a reasonably priced takeover. The deal, which issued preferred stock that could be converted into 267 million common shares at a strike price of $1.50, also diluted existing shareholders by over 73%.

Counterparts like Jefferies (JEF), Stifel Financial (SF - Get Report), Getco and TD Ameritrade (AMTD - Get Report), in addition to financial heavyweights such as Blackstone (BX - Get Report), were among the investors in Knight's capital raise. Getco holds roughly 15% of Knight's shares as a result of the funding.

In August, some investors were burned by speculation the company would hold out on a dilutive financing, in favor of a last ditch buyout attempt by a competitor. TheStreet argued Knight Capital's expediency in resolving its biggest issue - quickly eroding capital - was the top priority and not whether the company's chief executive Thomas Joyce could negotiate good M&A terms.

As speculation of a buyout at share prices not seen since the trading blunder mounts, Joyce's focus on capital over deal negotiations appears vindicated. With capital, trading firms like Knight or banks like Lehman can focus on takeover negotiations. Without capital, financial sector investors have seen the time run's dry quickly.

Earlier this week, Knight Capital said it will postpone a quarterly analyst and investor meeting, in a move that may signal some type of deal announcement or negotiations are imminent.
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