Nasdaq buys OMX

Nasdaq Stock Market Inc announced on Friday that it has acquired Swedish exchange operator OMX AB in a deal worth $3.7 billion.

The U.S. electronic exchange, home to such technology bellwethers as Microsoft Corp and Dell Inc., is expected to use the acquisition as a springboard to gain European listings.

Trading in shares of Nasdaq was halted for “news pending” right before the exchange closed in New York on Thursday. Trading in OMX, Europe’s fifth-largest stock exchange, was halted in midday trading pending an announcement.

OMX Chairman Urban Bäckström spoke at Friday’s press conference of a “historic day” that signalled the beginning of a “wonderful marriage”.

Shares in OMX rose 3.2 percent before the suspension. Nasdaq shares gained 79 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $33.98.

“The future of exchanges is about technology, flexibility and scale. NASDAQ and OMX together deliver all of these benefits,” said Robert Greifeld, CEO of Nasdaq in a statement.

The deal between the two exchanges comes a month after the New York Stock Exchange completed its $14 billion acquisition of Euronext, which operates the Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Lisbon stock exchanges. NYSE Euronext formed not only the first trans-Atlantic financial market, but the world’s largest, and set off a global rush for exchanges to partner or be left out of a massive consolidation push.

It also represents a major breakthrough for the Nasdaq, which failed in a hostile takeover bid to acquire London Stock Exchange PLC, Europe’s second-largest equities market. Nasdaq might use the acquisition of OMX to persuade LSE shareholders to agree to a deal creating a giant European exchange.

Nasdaq already owns almost 30 percent of the London exchange.

Nasdaq Chief Executive Robert Greifeld said during an investor conference Monday that he would consider a major acquisition that fit strategically, which has been the exchange’s mandate when looking at targets. Though he prefers organic growth, Greifeld has not denied that takeovers will help the exchange grow – especially in Asia and Europe.

“We’re fortunate to be in a space where consolidation can work,” he said at a Fox-Pitt Kelton conference on the state of global exchanges. “We expect to participate in that so we can hit multiple cylinders.”

OMX shares soared in mid-April after a news report said the exchange had received a 23 billion kronor ($3.36 billion) offer from Nasdaq, but both exchanges denied an offer had been made. At the same time, OMX said it was in “exploratory discussions with several exchanges and other market venues regarding possible forms of cooperation” but did not issue any further details.

Both the London Stock Exchange and Deutsche Boerse were also rumored to be interested in the Nordic exchange.

AP/AFX/The Local