Have so many ever done so much to accomplish so little?
That might be the sentiment of major shareholders of NYSE Euronext and Deutsche Boerse if European regulators squash the mega-merger of the two exchanges. The exchanges announced the roughly $17 billion deal last February. If approved, it would create the world's largest stock and derivatives exchange.
Indeed, the proposal dominated industry headlines even amid the ongoing roll out of Dodd-Frank financial reform in the United States and the rippling effects of financial crises. It even survived a heated campaign that saw rival exchange IntercontinentalExchange offer a financially superior bid for NYSE Euronext that would have swept it out from under the German rival.
However, the regulatory winds have decidedly shifted in recent weeks, and it now appears the would-be deal is doomed to become an industry historical footnote.
Reportedly, the antitrust arm of the European Commission has recommended that the full body block the merger, partially on the presumption that the OTC markets don't provide a competitive offset to the exchange-traded derivatives business.
The full commission is expected to vote on the merger by Feb. 9.
That leaves just a few weeks for representatives of both exchanges to make one final push for the nearly year-long effort to make the two massive financial institutions one. If European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso were not already intimately familiar with the pleas of NYSE Euronext CEO Duncan Niederauer and Deutsche Boerse CEO Reto Francioni that the deal makes sense for a Europe struggling with broader financial volatility, he will be soon.
A year's worth of effort -- and countless billable hours -- hang in the balance.
NYSE, Deutsche Boerse to defend merger plan