Dutch, French regulators vie for control of Euronext -sources

Tue Oct 15, 2013 12:53pm EDT
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By Jessica Toonkel and John McCrank

NEW YORK Oct 15 (Reuters) - With IntercontinentalExchange's more than $10 billion takeover of NYSE Euronext expected to close early next month, regulators in the Netherlands and France are scrambling to prevent Euronext from once more falling into foreign hands, according to several sources familiar with the situation.

ICE had committed to spinning off Euronext, the operator of stock exchanges in Paris, Amsterdam, Lisbon and Brussels, to secure regulatory approval for the NYSE Euronext deal. But some rivals have expressed an interest in buying the pan-European exchange operator instead.

London Stock Exchange officials have reached out to ICE informally about possibly buying Euronext, two sources said. In January, Nasdaq OMX Group Inc Chief Executive Robert Greifeld told Reuters that his firm would also consider bidding for Euronext if the opportunity arose. All the exchange operators declined to comment.

The regulators, which include the Bank of France and the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets, want Euronext to be independent, with headquarters and top executives located in their countries.

"I will give my support to an IPO that would anchor Euronext's shareholding in the euro zone because it is in the interest of banks, businesses and investors in the euro zone to have a major regulated market that is solid and efficient," Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer said.

The Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets, which has a say in any investment in Euronext of 10 percent or more and is advising the Dutch Ministry of Finance on the future of the exchange, declined to comment.

The jostling around Euronext is not likely to affect the closing of the ICE-NYSE deal, which is expected on Nov. 4. But it throws the future of Euronext into question and highlights how nationalism continues to play a role in deals for exchange operators, which are sometimes seen as key to a city's continued relevance as a financial center. Several exchange mergers have been blocked in recent years by national regulators.

French and Dutch regulators do not want to end up in a position where they have to publicly block a takeover of Euronext, one source said.   Continued...