Chief executive Duncan Niederauer delivered an energetic case for the success of NYSE Euronext without Deutsche Börse AG during a Friday, Feb. 10, conference call about the market operators fourth-quarter earnings.
Fresh from defeat following his 12-month mission to merge with the German exchange -- a deal the European Commission killed last week -- the NYSE chief said he had no regrets on gunning for the merger, even though it did help take a bite out of fourth-quarter financial results. The NYSE said it spent $38 million on its merger efforts and that net income slipped for the three months to $110 million from $135 million for the same period last year.
"I don't regret what we tried for a second," he said in the call. He also suggested that the exchange would pursue other strategic deals, even in a climate admittedly more difficult for cross-border transactions than he and his colleagues anticipated. While Niederauer didn't specify whether he was still open to another large transaction, he did say: "On our balance sheet we have a lot more we can do than the stated share buybacks and we will be much more specific as those opportunities" emerge. Last week the exchange said it plans to resume a $550 million share buyback.
Many observers expect NYSE Euronext to make another play for LCH.Clearnet Group Ltd., the independent London-based clearing house that has a virtual lock on over-the-counter interest rate swaps clearing in Europe. The NYSE chief indicated that this was a possibility, saying: "All options will be reviewed to get the most efficient and stable solution for our clients."
In June, the NYSE -- which owns a 10% stake in LCH -- said it was one of several interested parties looking at the clearinghouse. The target subsequently entered exclusive talks with the London Stock Exchange. Neither exchange has confirmed those talks, and since September there's been little word on how far they've progressed -- fueling speculation that LCH.Clearnet may be receptive to a rival offer.
Niederauer reiterated that clearing and information technology will play a key part in future revenue growth and that one key initiative is to turn the NYSE Liffe Clearing into a full-service central clearing house. That effort was essentially put on ice last year as the NYSE focused on the Deutsche Börse merger, which would have made the combined entity a formidable competitive force in global clearing and exchange-traded derivatives. He also said the New York Portfolio Clearing group would continue to play a key part in its future clearing strategy and should appeal to clients who want to economize through cross-margining, for example.
The NYSE sees a core growth advantage as banks are forced to contend with regulatory reform on several fronts in the U.S. and Europe. New rules will diminish bank capital resources and likely undermine market maker business in over-the-counter derivatives as OTC securities are forced to trade on electronic exchanges and clear through central clearing houses. Neiderauer said the NYSE can offer banks better cost and capital efficiencies by extending a suit of products and services including technology hubs around the world.
Information and technology remain one of the exchange's key earnings drivers and was one of the highlights of fourth-quarter results. NYSE revenue for the three months through Dec. 31 rose 2% to $628 million, helped by a 16% year-on-year increase to $127 million in revenues from technology services. The NYSE said it remains on track to generate $1 billion in revenue from technology by 2015.