Liffe launches joint venture with London Clearing House

LIFFE, the futures exchange, yesterday announced details of a joint venture with the London Clearing House (LCH), a development that could see Liffe expand beyond its traditional market of financial derivatives, writes Lea Paterson.

Brian Williamson, Liffe chairman, said the new venture would allow the two organisations to explore business opportunities that did not naturally fall within their individual remits.

Liffe and the LCH - which provides clearing services to the International Petroleum Exchange and the London Metal Exchange as well as Liffe - plan to combine their expertise to offer new trading and clearing initiatives to the market's major players.

The venture could serve as a stepping stone for Liffe to enter other financial markets such as equities, Mr Williamson said. However, he acknowledged that any move away from the exchange's traditional base could require the co-operation of other City institutions.

The Liffe chairman stressed that the joint venture with the LCH was not a prelude to a full-scale merger, but was rather one of a number of partnerships that Liffe intends to pursue as a means of securing its longer term future. He said: "Liffe will remain a customer of the London Clearing House for day-to-day business, but as far as development is concerned it will have a partner."

A development board will be asked to oversee the joint venture in its initial stages. Pen Kent, non-executive director of NatWest and former executive director of the Bank of England, is among the development board members, as are Sir Brian Pitman, Lloyds TSB chairman, and Alastair Clark, an executive director of the Bank of England.