James Moore: LSE's Rolet must tread warily with LCH.Clearnet

  • @TheIndyBusiness

Outlook Is Xavier Rolet the only good thing to come out of Lehman Brothers? It's beginning to look that way.

The oenophile executive has exceeded expectations: the business he runs still exists. The survival of the London Stock Exchange, which yesterday defied tough markets to meet the City's expectations, as an independent entity is remarkable. Some of the credit goes to his predecessor, Dame Clara Furse, who fought off two hostile takeover attempts from the Nasdaq under rules that make bidders look like Usain Bolt with a 20-metre head start.

But those bids left the organisation bruised, bloodied and not a little paranoid while facing threats from all sides, not least Europe's Mifid directive that ushered in an era of competition it had barely woken up to. Enter Mr Rolet, who recognised the problem and made the LSE more than Europe's biggest market for equities by doing a string of deals, most of which (unusually) look half sensible. They include the acquisition of a majority stake in LCH.Clearnet, which sits between buyers and sellers of financial instruments and ensures deals are completed even if one side goes pop halfway through.

Regulators want to see previously opaque "over-the-counter" derivatives traded direct between banks (and other companies) put through clearers like LCH, which they hope will make them safer and more transparent. So there's a big business opportunity for the organisation. And for its principal owner.

There is also a big risk, particularly if some of those financial instruments end up like the AAA-rated mortgage-backed securities that everyone got excited about before they caused the financial crisis.

Were LCH.Clearnet to go under, the resultant financial tsunami could make the collapse of Lehman Brothers look like an April shower. Let's hope Mr Rolet has learned the lessons of his previous employer.