05.01.2012
By Terry Flanagan

Bats Unclips Its Wings In Europe

The feel-good factor is slowly returning to Bats Global Markets with the announcement that it has successfully completed the transition of the recently merged Chi-X Europe’s order books on to a single Bats platform.

U.S. exchange operator Bats secured the $300 million purchase of pan-European rival Chi-X Europe in November last year and it has since combined the European arm of Bats and Chi-X Europe to form Bats Chi-X Europe, which is now the largest share-trading venue in Europe, with approximately 25% of the overall European market.

However, just under six weeks ago Bats Global Markets attempted an initial public offering on both its exchange and Nasdaq only to have an apparent technical glitch that affected the trading in shares of Apple and other companies, including Bats. This caused the Kansas-based operator, which accounts for approximately 10% of all U.S. equities trading, to cancel its IPO and any trades that had occurred in its stock, although trading in other stocks returned to normal after a few hours. Bats said the fiasco did not significantly affected its market share.

The migration of the Chi-X Europe platform on to its proprietary system brings to an end the formal business combination of Bats Europe and Chi-X Europe. It will now be solely known as Bats Chi-X Europe.

“We are pleased to complete the transition on schedule, so that our trading participants can quickly realize the benefits that the Bats Chi-X Europe combination provides, including cost rationalization, flexibility, choice and continued price leadership,” said Mark Hemsley, chief executive of the merged venue.

He added: “We will now turn our attention to the future, to increasing our presence in the markets in which we already operate, such as Spain, and exploring new business opportunities.”

Bats Chi-X Europe has long been trying to crack the Spanish market, using price promotions to weaken the monopolistic grip of incumbent exchange Bolsas y Mercados Españoles (BME). Spanish regulators have also been slow to adopt European Union-wide regulation to harmonize financial markets, such as under MiFID.

“We are pretty patient but it has taken a lot longer in Spain because of these issues but we hope to see the progress continuing,” Jerry Avenell, co-head of sales at Bats Chi-X Europe, told Markets Media.

However, in the last couple of weeks Bats believes it has reached a point where serious inroads will now be made. Last year, before the pricing promotions began, it had a market share of less than 1% compared to the BME’s 98%, but last month Bats claimed just over 5% of the market share, with the BME slipping to around 92%.

“Bats has certainly shown it elsewhere but it’s hard to say if they can crack the Spanish market,” Tanuja Randery, chief executive of London-based MarketPrizm, a trading technology company, told Markets Media. “It’s certainly been slow progress so far.”

The Bats Europe and Chi-X Europe order books will continue to operate as separate pools of liquidity and will be known respectively as the BXE lit and dark order books and the CXE lit and dark order books. Pricing for the BXE and CXE order books and smart order routing will remain unchanged until further notice. The current Spanish market pricing promotion, which applies to the CXE order books, will continue until June 30.

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