The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.
Americans shouldn’t fear a German takeover of the New York Stock Exchange. U.S. politicians are getting antsy — even about the merged entity’s name — and some may use the deal to criticize last year’s financial reform legislation. That’s a superficial and illogical response. NYSE’s purchase of Euronext didn’t emasculate European markets, and this deal won’t ruin America’s. What happens on markets matters more than who owns them.
That doesn’t mean New York Senator Charles Schumer isn’t entitled to insist, as he did over the weekend, that the merged entity put the New York brand first. It’s in his interest to promote his home town as global financial center. And he may have saved the new group some fees on fancy communications consultations. The Big Apple and its connotations make for a better brand than the generically Teutonic alternative.
But for New York to thrive as a financial center, it needs its backers to move on from an antiquated picture of the Big Board as a floor where burly men wave pieces of paper representing General Electric shares — or as a place where only stocks are traded. For the city to retain its role as a financial hub it must lead in innovation and technology and above all represent itself as a place where the interests of investors are well served.
On its own, NYSE Euronext was already in danger of losing out in this race. In addition to a traditional battle with Nasdaq in new stock listings and with the Chicago exchanges in the innovation of indexes, futures and other derivatives, dozens of rival trading platforms financed by the NYSE’s biggest customers have steadily eroded the profitability of its once-core stock trading business.
The Euronext deal in 2007 gave the NYSE access to a lucrative European derivatives business, whose operating profits now top those generated by the combined company’s cash trading and listing services. Moreover, because electronic trading has made cash transactions a volume game, a tie-up with Deutsche Boerse should channel more business New York’s way. The German group’s Eurex joint venture also owns ISE, a big U.S. options exchange. The planned partnership — even one where NYSE shareholders only call 40 percent of the shots — should bolster New York’s position.
Moreover, though exchanges are going global, regulation is still a local affair. That helped overcome parochial sentiment in Europe when NYSE merged with Euronext. Legislators worried about the future should focus more on keeping America’s financial centers on top by promoting fairness, good corporate governance and impeccable transparency. A name, after all, is just a name.
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