IntercontinentalExchange reasserted its challenge to CME
Group for pre-eminence in commodity derivatives markets by buying NYSE Euronext
for $8.2bn, fuelling a wave of consolidation among exchange operators.
IntercontinentalExchange, or ICE, the operator of contracts
including world benchmark cotton, arabica coffee and raw sugar futures and
options, said it would create "an unparalleled operator of global exchanges and
clearing houses" through the acquisition.
The NYSE Euronext empire includes not only the "Big Board",
as the New York stock exchange on Wall Street is called, but the London and
Paris futures exchanges, offering Ice an entry into dealing in the world's
largest asset class, interest rates.
In agricultural commodities, the deal would also give Ice
control of contracts including sterling-traded cocoa, robusta coffee and white
sugar and, signally, milling wheat, offering Ice for the first time control of
a liquid grains contract.
Battle of the exchanges
Indeed, the deal revitalises Ice's status as a competitor to
CME Group, the world's largest futures exchange operator, whose portfolio
includes the benchmark Chicago corn, livestock soybean and wheat contracts.
Ice in May began offering near-round-the-clock trading futures
for the likes of corn and wheat, settled against Chicago prices, a move which
prompted CME to expand its dealing hours.
Ice has also begun offering barley and wheat trading in
Canada, which has deregulated grain sales, and where it operates the benchmark
CME in October unveiled the $126m takeover of the Kansas City Board of Trade, which trades hard red winter wheat, actually the major
class grown in the US, as opposed to the soft red winter wheat listed in
CME has also this year launched a Black Sea wheat futures contract, and in August revealed it had applied for consent for a London-based derivatives exchange.
ICE said it intended to explore the flotation of the Euronext
share exchange next year as a "Continental European-based entity", if it gets
support from European politicians, highlighting the importance of derivatives
in Thursday's merger.
Indeed, changes in global regulation on derivatives trading
are seen providing new opportunities for exchange operators, in pushing dealing
from over-the-counter markets to formal markets – reversing the trend
encouraged by the spread of the internet and easy electronic communications.
Despite a deal which would result in ICE owning benchmark
soft commodities contracts on both sides of the Atlantic, the tie-up is not
expected to attract the wrath of regulators.
While a joint $11.3bn bid by ICE and Nasdaq OMX for NYSE Euronext
foundered last year amid competition concerns, there were based on fears for concentration
of US share trading.
Jeffrey Sprecher, the ICE chairman and chief executive, said
its acquisition of NYSE Euronext was "responsive to the evolution of market infrastructure today, and offers a
range of growth opportunities".
Jan-Michiel Hessels, the NYSE Euronext chairman, said the
group had "considered a range of strategic alternatives" before accepting the proposal
from ICE, which represented "the ideal partner in an evolving market landscape".
The deal - to be paid in a mixture of cash and stock, based on a price of $33.12 per NYSE Euronext share - is expected to release cost savings of $450m from
measures such as stripping out duplicated overheads.
NYSE Euronext shares soared 34% to close at $32.25 in New York.
ICE stock added 1.4% to $130.10.