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Global Economics

U.S.-Europe Exchange One Step Closer

The all-but-sure merger of the NYSE and European bourses will streamline operations and lower transaction costs

Plans to create the first transcontinental bourse cleared a key European hurdle on Dec. 19 as shareholders in European stock exchange Euronext overwhelmingly approved a merger with the New York Stock Exchange. Despite lukewarm support from many European politicians and some business interests who fear the U.S. will dominate the merged exchange, the deal won 98.2% of votes cast at a Euronext meeting in Amsterdam. NYSE shareholders are set to vote in New York on Dec. 20.

The merged exchange, linking the NYSE with bourses in Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Lisbon, as well as London-based futures market Liffe, could start operations by early 2007. It is likely to intensify pressure for other stock-market mergers by streamlining operations and lowering transaction costs.

In another closely watched merger effort, the New York-based Nasdaq is trying to acquire the London Stock Exchange for $5.1 billion. Since shareholder approval of the NYSE-Euronext tieup had been expected for weeks, the Dec. 19 vote will have little immediate effect on the London bid, says Thomas Nagtegaal, an analyst at Rabo Securities in Amsterdam. But it could spur exchanges in Asia and elsewhere to look for partners, he says. "When you have a transatlantic exchange with very high trading liquidity, it is a magnet for consolidation."

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