Nasdaq acquires controlling interest in Easdaq

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The Independent Online
Nasdaq, the hi-tech US stock exchange, yesterday rolled out its move into Europe with the acquisition of a controlling stake in Easdaq, the ailing Brussels-based bourse.

Nasdaq, the hi-tech US stock exchange, yesterday rolled out its move into Europe with the acquisition of a controlling stake in Easdaq, the ailing Brussels-based bourse.

Nasdaq will pay 70m euros (£44m) for a 58 per cent stake in Easdaq and rebrand the exchange Nasdaq Europe. Easdaq's largest shareholder, the US retail broker Knight Trading, has backed the agreement.

The deal will lay the foundations for the first pan-European, 24-hour global trading platform for hi-tech and other fast-growing companies. It will add to Nasdaq's US and Japanese trading platforms.

Easdaq, which has struggled to make headway since it was launched in 1996, will see its 62 listed companies transferred to the new entity. The 50 largest of Nasdaq's 5,000 companies will also be listed when the exchange becomes operational this summer. Nasdaq predicted that its round-the-clock system will be fully up and running by 2003.

Nasdaq Europe will also provide a facility for institutional and retail investors to take stakes in European initial public offerings. Frank Zarb, chairman of Nasdaq, said the deal also signalled Nasdaq's commitment to creating a global brand: "Nasdaq is global in its state of mind. For the first time we have forced an element of consolidation, but that is the way the market is going, and if you get in the way of it you will get buried."

Mr Zarb unveiled the deal with Easdaq just one day after Nasdaq entered a joint venture with Liffe, the London futures exchange, to open up the derivatives market in America.

Last year Nasdaq tried to take a stake in the ultimately unsuccessful merger of the London and Frankfurt exchanges and has been looking for an alternative route into Europe ever since.

Other exchanges, notably the London Stock Exchange, have said they can survive without merging with rivals, but yesterday's deal will renew pressure on them. Nasdaq Europe, which has promised to offer trading at much lower cost than now available, will directly challenge plans by the LSE to launch a global trading system later this year.

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