By John McCrank
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nasdaq OMX Group would definitely consider bidding for Euronext, the operator of the Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Lisbon stock exchanges, if it were put up for sale, Nasdaq's Chief Executive Robert Greifeld said in an interview.
"We would have to take a look at it," he said. "I'm not saying we would bid on it, but we would have to take a look."
Chatter that Euronext could be spun off from NYSE Euronext quickly surfaced after IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) made an $8.2 billion bid for the New York Stock Exchange operator in December.
Greifeld said if Euronext were to become available, it would not likely be until sometime in 2014, as it would take several months for the ICE-NYSE deal to close and then the two companies would have to begin an integration process. That scenario would be positive as at that point there may be more clarity on where the macro-economic environment in Europe is headed, he added.
"It would be a harder decision now to decide whether to bid on it than it would be 15 months from now," he said.
Germany's Deutsche Boerse has lost its appetite for buying Euronext, because regulatory and technological changes have made it harder to earn big profits from stock trading, three people familiar with the Frankfurt-based company's thinking told Reuters.
Deutsche Boerse has made three attempts at combining with Euronext since 2003. The final attempt, made in 2011, was shot down by antitrust concerns over creating a dominant player in European derivatives.
When the ICE-NYSE deal was announced, the two companies said they had told regulators in Europe that they would spin Euronext off through an IPO process if that would help the deal pass regulatory muster. But a source familiar with the situation said European regulators still had not indicated if they would prefer Euronext to be separated from a combined ICE-NYSE.
NOT AN AFTERTHOUGHT
ICE's interests are in combining its derivatives business with NYSE's Liffe, Europe's second-largest futures exchange. Doing so would make it the top challenger to Deutsche Boerse's European dominance in derivatives.
While the spotlight has been on Liffe, Euronext, with its four markets, does more trading than the London Stock Exchange, Greifeld pointed out. "It's not an afterthought," he added.
ICE CEO Jeff Sprecher and Nasdaq's Greifeld have a strong relationship going back to their hostile $11.3 billion joint bid for NYSE Euronext in 2011. That bid, which came during Deutsche Boerse and NYSE's merger talks, was dropped due to opposition from U.S. anti-trust regulators.
Combining Nasdaq and NYSE would have brought together the top two U.S. stock exchanges, creating a virtual monopoly on listings and dominance in trading U.S. cash equities and options.
Greifeld said that he is not concerned about going toe-to-toe against a combined ICE-NYSE, because while his trans-Atlantic exchange has fierce rivalries with NYSE across a range of businesses, it does not really compete against ICE.
Still, he said Sprecher would bring a new element to NYSE.
"Jeff is probably the right person to bring the organization forward into modern times," he said, taking a jab at the Big Board operator.
Greifeld said he does not feel the need to go out and do an acquisition just because ICE and NYSE are combining, and that Nasdaq would be opportunistic in its acquisition strategy.
Nasdaq has diversified its revenue stream away from equity trading through a number of small- to mid-sized acquisitions, the latest being a binding offer for Thomson Reuters Corp's investor relations, public relations and multimedia services units for $390 million in December.
(Reporting By John McCrank; Editing by Bernard Orr)