NASDAQ OMX and the IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) have taken their bid for NYSE Euronext direct to the exchange’s shareholders after repeatedly having their advances rejected by the target’s board.

The two bidders hope stockholders will prefer their superior cash-and-shares offer to the NYSE’s agreed all-share merger with Deutsche Börse, which was announced back in February.

‘The NYSE Euronext board has continually challenged the seriousness of our proposal and refused to engage us in discussion despite the positive feedback we have received from their stockholders,’ says NASDAQ’s CEO Bob Greifeld in a statement.

‘The commencement of this exchange offer should convince the NYSE Euronext board of the seriousness of our intentions.’

There is much debate over whether the combination of NASDAQ and NYSE would be approved by competition authorities in the US, given that it would produce a dominant player in the cash equities business.

NASDAQ and ICE have stated they are confident this would not be a problem and have offered up a $350 mn ‘reverse termination fee’ to show their conviction.

The hostile bid will hasten a conclusion to the saga, although Greifeld has said plans are in place for NASDAQ and ICE’s bid for NYSE to run until April 2012 if necessary.