NYSE chairman ready to join deal with London and Paris exchanges

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The Independent Online

Richard "Dick" Grasso, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, said yesterday he was ready to join in a three-way deal between Euronext, the Paris-led European stock exchange grouping and the London Stock Exchange - but only if all parties wanted it.

Richard "Dick" Grasso, chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, said yesterday he was ready to join in a three-way deal between Euronext, the Paris-led European stock exchange grouping and the London Stock Exchange - but only if all parties wanted it.

Mr Grasso, who was in London for a meeting of NYSE's European advisory board, yesterday met Don Cruickshank, chairman of the LSE, but he insisted this was a courtesy call and not a prelude to merger talks.

"We will, of course, exchange views on where the world is headed. But you should not read too much into that," said Mr Grasso.

The LSE has reacted coolly to suggestions that Nasdaq, the NYSE's domestic US rival, is keen for early talks to explore the possibility of a merger. Mr Cruickshank told MPs on Tuesday that he thought there were considerable regulatory and governance obstacles that would prevent a Nasdaq deal.

Mr Grasso insisted that the NYSE did not believe in hostile bids and insisted that attempts by its US rival Nasdaq, the US technology exchange, to forge a deal with the LSE did not mean that NYSE should necessarily do the same.

"The idea that there might be one market around the world, even if it is mine, is terribly myopic," he said. "I am a great believer there will be a mix-and-match strategy. There will be some acquisitions , some mergers, some collaboration, some sharing of platforms."

Stock Exchange officials maintain that Mr Cruickshank's priority is to reconstitute the LSE board to make it more outward-looking and that it was unlikely that the LSE would be in a position even to begin considering its strategic options until early next year.

Mr Grasso insisted that GEM, NYSE's global trading alliance, which includes Euronext and Tokyo, was open to newcomers and that he expects more markets to join.

"I don't believe in hostile bids for markets. Markets do best when they collaborate, when each respective participant can maintain brand identity," he said.

"To the extent that Euronext and the LSE are involved, and we were invited as part of a friendly transaction, of course we will be there."

However, Mr Grasso said that in his view the London Stock Exchange was in a strong position, despite the collapse of its attempted iX merger with Frankfurt.

"I think London is a great brand, and a great market. I have great respect for them," he said. "I would be very optimistic about where they are going."

The NYSE has remained aloof from stock exchange consolidation, preferring instead to forge looser arrangements with a variety of exchanges while making the most of its status as the world's biggest exchange to pull in listings from abroad.

This year has been a particularly good one for for foreign listings, with the British insurers Prudential and Royal & SunAlliance joining a raft of non-US companies that are joining New York's "Big Board."

The pulling power of the NYSE on many non-US companies is such that it is under much less pressure than its rivals to seek takeovers of other exchanges in order to provide a broader international spread of stocks for its members to trade.

Mr Grasso said: "Our global strategy was asset-gathering - and bringing as many stocks as possible to the New York list. That has not changed."

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