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Economy

Exchanges' rivalry gets ever more serious

Dwindling listings heat up competition

Exchanges-rivalry-gets-ever-more-serious

New York Stock Exchange traders deal in shares of fewer companies today. Stock trading accounted for 56 percent of its revenue in the third quarter of 2010, down from 71 percent five years ago.

Associated press Enlarge

Last fall, when Continental and United Airlines were merging and deciding where to list the new company's shares, the New York Stock Exchange offered to sponsor ceremonies for airline executives at the open and close of trading in Paris and New York. It also agreed to buy advertisements in the airline's magazine to herald the listing.

The airline chose the New York Stock Exchange over Nasdaq.

In 2009, when DreamWorks Animation, listed then on the Big Board, was introducing Shrek the Musical on Broadway, Nasdaq promoted the show on its big screen on Broadway in Manhattan and handed out Shrek ears in Times Square. DreamWorks transferred its listing to Nasdaq.

The two dominant New York exchanges are widening their horizons with the Big Board agreeing to merge with Deutsche Boerse of Germany and with Nasdaq thought to be seeking its own merger partner. But at home their rivalry is intensifying.

As revenue from stock trading declines because of increasing competition from smaller electronic exchanges, the Big Board and Nasdaq are taking advantage of regulatory changes that make it easier for them to poach listings from each other.

New competition is not the only threat to their businesses. The number of listings on the exchanges has also declined, because of mergers, fewer initial public offerings, and the deaths of so many technology companies that went public a decade ago.

The number of companies listed in the United States on Nasdaq peaked at 5,556 in 1996 but declined to about 2,852 by the end of 2009, according to the World Federation of Exchanges. On the Big Board, domestic listings fell to 2,327 by 2009 after peaking at 3,025 in 1999. So the traditional American exchanges have been diversifying into businesses beyond stocks, like trading in derivatives and supplying technology to other exchanges.

In fact, trading of stocks, including revenue from trading, listings, and providing data on the equity markets, accounted for 56 percent of the Big Board's revenue in the third quarter of 2010, compared with 71 percent just five years ago, according to the Tabb Group, a market advisory group.

The Big Board and Nasdaq are trying aggressively to steal listings from each other, in hopes of making up listing and trading fees lost to their upstart competitors. They are rolling out a range of nontrading services for the first time -- and offering lucrative inducements for companies willing to switch.

"Several years ago, you listed here because of the patina that this was simply the place where the biggest companies went," said Scott Cutler, head of the Big Board's listings. "It was like a utility. The NYSE didn't actually pitch as intensively. Today, that is just not sufficient. We are head to head on several deals."

Nasdaq made gains from 2005 to 2009, persuading companies like News Corp., Vodafone, and Mattel to transfer to its exchange. They brought with them roughly $200 billion in combined market value.

That compares with $64 billion in market capitalization that went the other way, in the Big Board's favor, during the same period, according to figures from the Issuer Advisory Group.

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