CFETS to clear CME?

September 20, 2007 06:59 AM

One of the most popular panel discussions at this year’s Burgenstock Meeting in Montreux, Switzerland, focused on how to service the Middle Eastern customer – something a slew of new wannabe exchange owners appear to understand quite well already.

Both the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and Borse Dubai have entered high-profile bids for European exchange properties. QIA and Singaporean state-owned investment fund Temasek have signaled their interest in being among the bidders for Nasdaq’s 31% stake in the London Stock Exchange (LSE), which Nasdaq is selling to raise money for a bid on Scandinavia’s OMX, on which Borse Dubai is also bidding.

At press time, Nasdaq’s self-imposed Sept. 7 deadline for the sale of its LSE shares has passed without a single bid having been entered, and LSE boss Clara Furse is said to be favoring the QIA bid over any offers from exchanges – apparently welcoming a major investor, but shunning a strategic partner. QIA is known for its long-term approach, but she need only speak with the former heads of Deutsche Börse to learn that non-strategic investors aren’t always as passive as she may prefer.

Unsurprisingly, the rumor mill has been spinning out a diverse assortment of product — with speculation ranging from reports that Nasdaq and Borse Dubai are powwowing to work out a win-win solution to their rivalry, to others that OMX management is helping Nasdaq unload its Nasdaq stake – an action sure to draw shareholder ire if true.

While mainstream media have focused on whether the slew of state-owned investment funds buying up strategic industries represents a threat to Western Civilization, the derivatives world is focused mostly on the OMX-Dubai axis. The two key questions are: What does Borse Dubai want with a Nordic exchange? And, perhaps more importantly: What does Borse Dubai want with a global technology provider?

OMX technology drives more than 60 exchanges, most recently in Baghdad, and former OMX executive Per Larsson runs Borse Dubai. He would surely like to get a chance to re-direct the entity he helped build – and from the helm of which he was unceremoniously deposed when Sweden’s OM merged with Finland’s Hex.

Swedish newspapers Dagens Industri and Svenska Dagbladet both quote Larssson as saying that he wants to build OMX and its gaggle of Nordic exchanges into an even larger network – specifically citing OMX’s technology and experience integrating exchanges, and implying that he won’t be cleaning house if the deal goes through.

Meanwhile, Borse Dubai has filed an appeal with the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (SFSA), contesting an August ruling that it broke Swedish law by not revealing its massive options holdings in OMX before announcing its takeover bid, while that self-same SFSA investigates allegations that OMX tried to badmouth Dubai to its partners in the lead-up to the bid, in an effort to destroy its credibility. An OMX spokesperson denies the charges.

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