09.26.2011
By Terry Flanagan

Exchanges Eye LME for Diversification

The London Metal Exchange has announced that it has received several expressions of interest from potential acquirers.

The industrial metals-focused LME said that it has been courted by multiple interested buyers looking to acquire the 134-year old bourse and diversify amid an evolving exchange landscape.

“It would be diversifying for most exchange groups, as none of the ones rumored (to be interested) have any great presence in industrial-use metals,” said Michael Wong, an exchange analyst with Morningstar. “CME Group and the IntercontinentalExchange were among those brought up, and acquiring the LME would be diversifying for them. It would fill in a slight weakness in CME, and for ICE, most of the products that it lists are commodity products, so getting extra global commodity exposure would also help with diversification.”

The LME is the world’s largest market for industrial metals, handling some 80 percent of the world’s global metals futures transactions. It is one of the few member-owned exchanges still operating today. Any potential acquirer would need to come to an agreement with the exchange’s 92 members on an amicable deal.

“The London Metal Exchange has received several expressions of interest with regard to potential strategic transactions,” an LME statement said last week. “The board…will begin a formal process which may or may not lead to an acceptable offer for the company being received.”

The news of a potential LME deal comes amid a lull in new exchange consolidation deals. The space has been quiet for the past several months following the failures of two high-profile hookups, with the Australian Securities Exchange-Singapore Exchange deal and the TMX Group-London Stock Exchange Group deal. Although two significant mergers are still in the table, in the form of NYSE Euronext-Deutsche Borse and Chi-X Europe-Bats Global Markets, it has been a quiet period in the space following a flurry of deal announcements earlier in the year.

With the prospect of a new exchange deal, it brings back into the forefront the question of further exchange consolidation.

“I don’t think this potential deal is game changing enough for any exchange group to point to and say this would be a spark of a merger wave,” said Wong. “The thing about other mergers, such as TMX-LSE and ASX-SGX, you were combining two strong global competitors. This is more like an add-on acquisition. Two goliaths would spark a wave. This is not an industry defining moment.”

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