Four exchanges - CME Group, InterContinental Exchange (ICE),
NYSE Euronext and the Hong Kong Exchange - have emerged as
contenders for the London Metal Exchange, which set a deadline
for bids of May 7.
Metal Bulletin outlines some of the salient issues in this
fascinating takeover story, which has at its centre the
134-year-old LME, the world's largest metal market - a prize
asset in the global consolidation of exchanges.
What are the assets and advantages the three USA-based
exchanges and the Hong Kong exchange could offer to
shareholders of the world's largest metal market?
Why are they are interested?
What questions will board members, shareholders and current
users of the market be asking as the deadline approaches as
they weigh which exchange makes the best financial offer? Which
offers the most compelling vision for the LME's future? And
which has the best people?
Market capitalisation: $17.8 billion
CME Group, owner of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange,
the Chicago Board of Trade (which it won after a battle with
ICE in 2007), Comex and Nymex, is being tipped by some as the
front-runner in the bidding process.
Alongside copper and precious metals contracts, it offers
trading in interest rates, equity indices, foreign exchange,
energy, agricultural commodities, weather and real-estate
By its reckoning, CME Group offers the "widest range of global
benchmark products across all major asset classes", and it has
been increasing its footprint in Asia in recent months with a
strategic partnership with Bank of China to promote
cross-border commodities trading.
Last year, it also launched CME Clearing
to expand its clearing operations in Europe, and it
now clears more than 170 different energy, commodity, metal and
freight contracts through the platform.
Buying the LME would make CME Group by far the most
liquid metals trading exchange in the world, and one that is
far more accessible than the Shanghai Futures Exchange, which
in the event of a successful bid would become its sole major
CME Group's average daily metals trading volumes have nearly
doubled since 2008, but the group expects fierce competition in
this and the other markets it is active in.
"Competition is influenced by liquidity and transparency of the
markets, variability in fee structures, breadth of product
offerings, including quality of new product development as well
as efficient and innovative technology," CME Group said in its latest annual report
The LME has been investing heavily in improving these facets of
its business, and buying the LME would give CME Group breathing
space in the predatory world of global trading exchanges.
Would a successful bid from CME offer brokers as
strong an entrance into Asian markets as one other potential
bidder, the Hong Kong Exchange?
It owns the Comex copper contract. How would it market both
that and the LME's own copper contract?
Hong Kong Exchange
Market capitalisation: HK$135.5 billion ($17.5 billion)
Confirming its bid this week
, Hong Kong
Exchanges & Clearing (HKEx) is the sole exchange to have
publicly announced its participation in the bidding process.
In an effort to diversify away from equities, the exchange had
previously expressed an interest in targeting commodity markets
amid growing Chinese demand for raw materials.
With a strong balance sheet, the HKEx achieved net profits of
$5.09 billion in 2011, on revenues of $7.86 billion, and daily
turnover averaging $69.7 billion.
The group had reportedly been in talks with banks about a loan
to finance a bid for the exchange before the announcement.
"If the need for additional financing in connection with that
process arises, the board will explore and evaluate appropriate
available sources of funds in accordance with the interests of
HKEx's shareholders. At this stage there can be no certainty as
to the outcome of that process," the HKEx board said on Monday
HKEx is the holding company for the Stock Exchange of Hong
Kong, the Hong Kong Futures Exchange, is the clearing house for
both exchanges, and is considered one of the front-runners in
the race for the LME.
While it does not have the M&A experience of the other
bidders, HKEx is thought to have the clearing expertise and the
capital for future development.
Just as the HKEx is seeking to expand into
commodities, so LME brokers and their clients are looking for
access to the Asian and Chinese market, which is something that
the Hong Kong Exchange could offer.
"A bid from the Hong Kong Exchange is probably more holistic
and inevitably brings the China dynamic through which members
can access China and make money for themselves," Newedge broker
John Browning told Metal Bulletin last
The HKEx is a huge market. Its combination with the LME would
be a global combination, tying up the western and eastern
Martin Wheatley, head of the UK's Financial Services
Authority's conduct business unit, will take over as head of
new regulatory body the Financial Conduct Authority when it is
set up later this year to oversee the integrity of the UK's
financial markets; how might his experience as former ceo of
Hong Kong's securities & futures commission shape his view
of a bid by the Hong Kong exchange?
Will the reality of rapidly increased access to the Asian
markets match the huge promise?
Would being bought by the Hong Kong Exchange facilitate the
establishment of warehouses in China?
Would HKEx's lack of warehousing experience impede its capacity
to deal with LME warehousing issues?
Market capitalisation: $9.5 billion
Founded by the entrepreneurial Jeffrey Sprecher in 2000, the
exchange, which has oil, gas and soft commodity contracts,
bought the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) in June 2001.
Trade in half of the world's crude and refined oil futures
takes place on ICE Futures Europe (which was created based on
the IPE, whose open outcry trading pit Ice closed).
In common with CME, Ice has played an active role in exchange
consolidation in recent years, losing out to CME Group in the
battle for the Chicago Board of Trade in 2007, the same year it
was successful in buying the New York Board of Trade.
Last year it withdrew from a joint bid for NYSE Euronext with
Ice started clearing energy futures in Europe in November 2008
through ICE Clear Europe.
In February it said it had a $1.8 billion credit facility,
which would enable it to fund a bid.
Ice launched its own clearing in 2008 to take control
of an essential service for exchanges, their users and clients:
the path which the LME is now taking, though its own clearing house is not due to be
built till 2013
"I believe that they [the LME] could use a much better clearing
infrastructure. That would allow them to roll out more products
more quickly. If they can get a more general distribution it
would be a good thing for them," Sprecher said in the company's
fourth quarter results announcement in
But he has also pointed to the fact that the LME has benefited
from strong growth in Asia, where Ice itself does not have a
strong foothold yet.
Some argue that Ice's focus on developing a corporate franchise
would make it the best fit for the LME and its users.
Though it clears some iron ore swaps it does not offer any
other metal contracts, so buying the LME would be a blockbuster
entrance to a new market for the Atlanta-based exchange.
What does its closure of the IPE trading pits suggest
for the future of open outcry at the LME, if Ice were
Is Ice's current lack of metal contracts positive, negative or
Market capitalisation: $6.6 billion
NYSE Euronext is the owner of stock
in Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon, London and Paris,
and through its NYSE Liffe platform, it is also runs the second
largest derivatives market in Europe.
NYSE Liffe offers soft commodities derivatives and maintains a
warehousing network for the physical storage of wheat, cocoa
and coffee. The group has developed NYSE Liffe Clearing for the
London derivatives market, though certain clearing functions
are outsourced to LCH.Clearnet. The company aims to bring those
services in-house by mid-2013.
NYSE Euronext views the LME as a good fit for its
existing commodities business: it has experience running a
warehouse network and, like the LME, it is keen to develop its
own clearing house.
New regulations in Europe look set to transform the derivatives
market over the next few years, and a far larger percentage of
over-the-counter business will need to be centrally cleared. It
will not have gone unnoticed that, when the new fee structure
is in place, the LME's clearing house project will be
The group is also eager to diversify ahead of the introduction
of the new Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID).
Acquiring an exchange like the LME will provide diversification
and growth in trading volumes, possibly without attracting too
much attention from regulators, which blocked NYSE Euronext's
bid for Deutsche Borse last year due to anti-trust concerns.
The weaker derivatives market in Europe hurt NYSE's
first-quarter earnings, with trading volumes falling 28% year
on year. The group restated its aim of pursuing earnings growth
when announcing its results, and capitalising on opportunities
in new markets is the first pillar of that strategy.
After incurring $16 million in charges related to the
Deutsche Borse bid, NYSE will want to avoid another failed
takeover attempt. With estimates for the value of the LME
varying widely, how far will NYSE go to avoid being muscled out
of the bidding?