Monday, March 12, 2012

As Nasdaq bids for NYSE, shares of CBOE plunge on downgrade

As the world's biggest financial exchanges plan merger parties, the markets in Chicago are either not invited or purposely skipping the affair.

Shares of the company that includes the Chicago Board Options Exchange fell 5 percent Friday on investor concerns that it could be "odd man out" as other markets link up.

CBOE Holdings Inc. lost $1.46 Friday to close at $27.51 after analysts downgraded the stock. They said CBOE may have no potential deal partners after Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. launched a bid for the owner of the New York Stock Exchange.

With the futures market IntercontinentalExchange Inc., Nasdaq bid $11.3 billion for NYSE Euronext Inc. The offer topped a $10 billion deal that the icon of the American capitalism accepted from Frankfurt-based Deutsche Boerse in February.

The competition for the NYSE could benefit the owner of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade, CME Group Inc. The world's largest futures exchange operator could be overshadowed in Europe if the NYSE, which owns a London-based futures exchange, sold to Deutsche Boerse.

Conversely, analysts said an NYSE-Nasdaq link would keep futures trading in Europe divided and leave an opening for CME.

Shares of CME rose $2.72 Friday to close at $304.27.

The company has bided its time while the NYSE has been in play, downplaying talk it would make its own offer.

But some traders believe CME eventually will try to acquire CBOE, its neighbor on La Salle Street. Both companies are highly profitable, but a linkage would create savings from job cuts and sharing technology.

Any combination of exchanges, however, will face regulatory review based on antitrust concerns. Some in Congress have raised objections to the NYSE possibly coming under foreign ownership.

Traditional stock exchanges are under pressure to find partners because technology has driven down the cost of trading to almost nothing. Newer, smaller and more high-tech companies like the BATS Exchange and Direct Edge have emerged to let investors find the best price for a security in milliseconds. Meanwhile, profits have increased from trading in futures and options contracts, the Chicago specialty.

"We're in the midst of a pretty fundamental reshaping of the way people trade stocks, bonds and derivatives," said Kenneth B. Marlin, managing partner at Marlin & Associates, a boutique investment bank that's done merger-related work with exchanges.

NYSE said it will "carefully review" the offer from Nasdaq.

Contributing: AP

The stock at CBOE Holdings, which owns the Chicago Board Options Exchange, was downgraded.| Brian Jackson~Sun-TimesThe New York Stock Exchange (background), already having reached a deal with Deutsche Boerse, received a competing joint offer from Nasdaq OMX and Intercontinental Exchange on Friday. | Mark Lennihan~ap fileMark Lennihan

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