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Deutsche Boerse Challenges 'Black Day' Rebuff of NYSE Deal

For NYSE Euronext, a European debt crisis may even be an opportunity across the Atlantic. "After a weak start to the year that proceeded into April, accelerated fears around the European sovereign crisis appeared to drive another surge in volume in May," noted KBW analyst Niamh Alexander in a June note upgrading NYSE Euronext's 2012 earnings per share assumptions.

NYSE Euronext shareholders and analysts cheered the decision to walk away and a plan to roughly double stock buybacks to $1 billion. Meanwhile, the move may allow the company to consolidate its high exposure to Europe based trading volumes. In January, Sandler O'Neill analysts wrote in a research report that NYSE Euronext may be worth $30 a share as a standalone, if the merger were to fail.

Still, shares of NYSE Euronext have fallen since February, as the outlook on stock and derivatives trading dims amid widespread risk aversion and new regulations. Overall, NYSE Euronext shares are off nearly 8% to $24.17 in 2012 after falling 12% in 2011.

"We believe the key to share price outperformance lies in unlocking the stand-alone earnings power of the franchise," wrote Credit Suisse analyst Howard Chen, in a note assessing NYSE's lackluster first quarter earnings. "While efforts to streamline costs and improve efficiency are ongoing, the headwinds of dampened activity levels--particularly within European interest rate futures--and competitive headwinds continue to take their toll on top-line revenue trends."

Deutsche Boerse's continued contest of its NYSE merger blockage is an attempt to undo key headwinds. The move challenges the legal reasoning of EU and will do little to revive the proposed merger; however, its insistence to cut mergers highlights the company's hope to move from Europe as regulators weigh on M&A. In its appeal, Deutsche Boerse insists that analysis of efficiencies, customer benefits and divestitures in the deal -- which led to an anticompetitive finding - were done incorrectly.

In the past two years, Bloomberg calculates that regulators have blocked $37 billion in exchanges deals.

Now analysts expect deals to be done, but at a much smaller size. "Scale remains a competitive advantage for exchanges, however going forward we expect management teams are more likely to drive new operating leverage through smaller niche acquisitions that complement existing Product/ technology portfolios rather than transformational M&A to build global footprint across borders," wrote Goldman Sachs analyst Daniel Harris in February.

To be seen is whether deals will reemerge after a frenetic 2011. Last week Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing bought the London Metal Exchange for over $2 billion.

Alexander of KBW highlights that GFI Group (GFIG - Get Report), Investment Technology Group (ITG), Interactive Brokers ( IBKR ) and MarketAxess ( MKTX ) could benefit from consolidation in the space, in a June note to clients.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York

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