03.28.2012
By Terry Flanagan

Bats Focuses On The Future

Days after pulling back its initial public offering, Bats Global Markets is keen to move on with its business plans.

Bats chief executive Joe Ratterman has noted that his company will consider all of its options going forward, which include additional M&A activity and technology upgrades.

Coming up next will be the migration of the Chi-X Europe platform to its own technology. Chi-X Europe is home to about 25% of European equities trading. The move will make Chi-X faster and cut the costs of technology maintenance. The technology glitch that occurred in the U.S. IPO was not related to the technology used in its European platform.

“The software problem likely occurred in code specifically developed for the IPO, and does not have an effect on its other trading technology in the U.S. and in Europe,” said one market participant with knowledge of the matter.

Bats has not said one way or another if it will proceed with the IPO at a further date, simply noting that it is on indefinite hold.

Edward Wedbush, founder, president and chief executive of Wedbush Securities, a Bats equity holder, has said that he believes the exchange will eventually again seek to go public, and that in the short term it would look to regain customer confidence and shore up their infrastructure.

Bats was set to conduct a meeting on Tuesday to discuss its future plans going forward, including the status of company executives.

On the first full day of trading after the retracted IPO, order flow was virtually unchanged. Its U.S. equities trading market share was at 10.3% on March 26, as opposed to 10.9% month-to-date. Its European market share was actually up to 25.4%, versus 24.1% month-to-date.

The technical issues for Bats came right as regulators said they would launch a probe into the communications between electronic exchanges and high-frequency trading firms. While most exchanges accept and welcome order flow from HFT firms, a few in particular thrive on it, offering maker-taker pricing, which rewards liquidity providers. Regulators have also sent letters to a number of high-speed firms, such as Getco and Tradebot, requesting information about their trading activities and communications with exchanges, according to reports.

The withdrawn IPO may likely hurt the banks that were underwriting the deal as well. According to industry estimates, the incident may cost Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Credit Suisse and a group of other banks as much as $7.1 million in fees, as they would have divided up the $1.12 per share for the offering.

Almost half of the shares offered were to come from the estate of Lehman Brothers, with another 1.1 million from Getco, according to the prospectus Bats filed with the SEC. Lehman offered 3.03 million of its 3.98 million Class A shares.

Despite the black eye, Bats plans to go forward with a host of planned initiatives, including potential global expansion.

Bats plans to expand into countries where it sees “opportunities to leverage its technology platform to capture market share,” including Canada and Brazil. Its goal is to enter “at least two new markets by the end of 2014”, according to its IPO filing documents.

The company will also look to venture outside of cash equities and options trading, where in the U.S. it commands roughly 11% and 3% market share, respectively. It will look into the trading of U.S. Treasury securities and other fixed income products, foreign exchange, U.S. futures and other derivative products.

Bats is currently under a memorandum of understanding with Claritas, a Brazilian asset management firm, to explore opportunities in the Brazilian market, including the potential creation of a new exchange. It has not made any official announcements regarding potential expansion into Canada, aside from the SEC filing.

The company will also consider strategic alliances and further M&A activity. “Our focus will be on opportunities that we believe can enhance or benefit from our technology platform, provide significant market share and profitability and are consistent with our corporate culture,” said Bats. “We believe that the establishment of a public trading market for our common stock will enhance our ability to pursue strategic opportunities by providing a currency with which to execute future acquisitions.”

Founded in 2005 as an electronic communications network for trading, Bats has since grown to be the third largest exchange operator in the U.S., behind NYSE and Nasdaq. Bats operates two trading platforms in the U.S., Bats BZX and Bats BYX, as well as and Bats Options, an options exchange.

It recently acquired Chi-X Europe to form Bats Chi-X Europe, a pan-European multilateral trading facility and the largest electronic trading platform in Europe. The transition of Chi-X Europe to Bats’ trading platform is expected to be complete during the second quarter.

Bats’ primary listings service was launched to take on NYSE Euronext and Nasdaq OMX. It plans to use a new aggressive pricing model to attract new business. Prior to the failed IPO, the first securities listed on Bats were a suite of eight BlackRock iShares exchange traded funds. The funds are linked to indexes of international stocks.

Bats announced in May 2011 its plans to go public in a $100 million IPO. According to industry estimates, the company is valued at just above $800 million.

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