BATS increases its institutional platform portfolio, first Hotspot FX, now ETF.com

Rick Steves

Just who is forging ahead in the very competitive institutional ECN sector? It is a very close battle of the titans…. Yesterday, exchange operator BATS Global Markets announced it was buying ETF.com, without disclosing the financial terms of the transaction, in a deal which is expected to close in April 1st. The ETF.com website which generated […]

BATS increases its institutional platform portfolio

Just who is forging ahead in the very competitive institutional ECN sector? It is a very close battle of the titans….

Yesterday, exchange operator BATS Global Markets announced it was buying ETF.com, without disclosing the financial terms of the transaction, in a deal which is expected to close in April 1st.

The ETF.com website which generated 875,572 page views and attracted 291,191 unique visitors in February 2016 will become an independent media subsidiary of BATS Global Markets.

David Lichtblau, CEO of ETF.com, will remain in that role and report directly to Bats Executive Vice President and Head of U.S. Markets Bryan Harkins.”, said the press release, underscoring “our commitment to the ETF industry and our focus on providing unique, value-added content for issuers, brokers, financial advisors, market professionals and investors.”

Bats has been expanding its ETF business, doubling the number of ETFs listed on the US market to 56 as the Kansas-based firm offered to pay ETF providers as much as $400,000 to list on its exchange, since 2015.

On Monday, the company announced it would provide Money.com with Bats One Feed, a market data product that handled 26.2% of all ETF trading in February 2016.

In 2015, BATS Global Markets, Inc. Class A Common Stock (BATS:BATS) decided to expand into the foreign exchange market by buying currency-trading venue Hotspot FX from KCG Holdings Inc. in a $365 million deal in cash and additional payments under a tax sharing arrangement of $63 million, apparently valuing the company 14 times the EBITDA in 2014. HospotFX has a network of more than 30 prime brokers and an average daily volume over $30,000 billion in 2016.

Multi-asset institutional platforms have been dominated by EBS (ICAP) and Thomson Reuters who compete at almost level pegging volume wise for 3 years.

Thomson Reuters bought FXall for $625 million in 2012, having published its average daily spot volume at $111 billion in a total volume of $356 million in February. At the time, FXall CEO Phil Weisberg became Global Head of eFX for Thomson Reuters, a position he continues to hold today.

Electronic Broking Services (EBS) which is the institutional ECN division of British interdealer broker ICAP Plc (LON:IAP) and is one of the largest dealing platforms, continues to hold its level pegging with FXall on a monthly basis, with average daily volumes in February 2016 coming in at $102 billion, and daily average of $107 billion in 2015, down from $274 million in 2008.

ICAP’s decision to bring EBS under the same roof in late 2014, combining its EBS foreign exchange and BrokerTec fixed income electronic trading platforms into one business unit, might have been the force behind Bats buying Hotspot FX, in a business environment where mergers and acquisitions are in fashion. Consolidation is the new big thing among institutional giants, now the other “big four”: Thomson Reuters, ICAP, BATS and KCG.

No.2 US exchange operator by volume, BATS expanded beyond equities and into foreign exchange and ETFs, aggressively trying to win market share. After a failed attempt to file an IPO in 2012, due to a glitch in the company’s trading systems, BATS is planning to file one in 2016, valuing the firm at $2 billion despite equity’s valuation at $1.5 billion.

This acquisition, when looking at the closely-contended institutional ECN sector, is a case of BATS Global Markets sharpening its bow as the battle for supremacy in this particular sector continues not only to be a four horse race, but a very marginal one at that.

Photograph: Time Square, New York. Copyright FinanceFeeds

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