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Nasdaq Makes Its Move

A big exchange buy in Europe puts the heat back on rival NYSE.

NasdaqI:IXIC is staking its claim in the global exchange gold rush.

Just months after its efforts to buy the London Stock Exchange fell apart, Nasdaq agreed Friday to buy the OMX, an operator of stock exchanges across Europe. The deal puts Nasdaq back on the worldwide exchange map just as its rivals are consolidating their power.

OMX operates stock exchanges in Helsinki, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Iceland, Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius.

The transaction calls for Nasdaq to pay 208.10 kroner per share for OMX, valuing the Nordic exchange at $3.7 billion. Combined, the exchanges will have a market cap of roughly $7.1 billion.

Nasdaq Chief Executive Bob Greifeld will become CEO of the combined company, while OMX CEO Magnus Bocker will serve as president.

"This combination provides our organizations with the ability to grow and accelerate the global flow of equity capital," Greifeld said in a statement. "At the same time, it provides us with an excellent platform for further expansion into derivatives and other asset classes. Our organizations bring together very complementary businesses, and we see many new opportunities for growth in an era of unprecedented change and development for exchanges.''

Like the Nasdaq, the OMX is looking for "a better listings presence," says Jamie Selway, a managing director at White Cap Trading in New York. "The two exchanges are culturally kind of similar -- and both share an interest in the LSE."

The news comes amid a global merger-and-acquisition boom and a huge rise in the value of exchanges, including an IPO boom and big run-ups in shares of companies like

New York Mercantile Exchange

(NMX)

.

The gains have been fed in part by updated rules that call for exchanges to route orders to wherever there is the best price and fastest execution. That change has pushed smaller exchanges and other types of alternative trading platforms into the fray.

Meanwhile, the big keep getting bigger. Nasdaq archrival

NYSE Euronext

(NYX)

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just completed its purchase of the Euronext stock market operation, and a number of U.S. futures and derivatives exchanges have been playing the merger game as well.

NYSE Euronext also has a pact with the Tokyo Stock Exchange and a small stake in the National Stock Exchange of India.

IntercontinentalExchange

(ICE) - Get Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. (ICE) Report

said Thursday it will continue to try to buy

Chicago Board of Trade

(BOT)

in spite of an existing deal between the CBOT and its broad-shouldered peer, the

Chicago Mercantile Exchange

(CME) - Get CME Group Inc. Class A Report

. Just a few weeks ago, the

International Securities Exchange

(ISE)

, one of the largest options trading platforms, said it had agreed to be acquired by an affiliate of Deutsche Boerse.

Until now, the Nasdaq and the OMX have expressed interest in megadeals without being able to pull one off. Back in 2000, the OMX -- like the Nasdaq last year -- sought a deal with the LSE but was rebuffed.

Besides Nasdaq, the Nymex is among the last of the public exchanges to be left out of the dealmaking frenzy. But the energy futures and commodities exchange did enter a joint venture in March with TSX Group's Natural Gas Exchange to trade North American natural gas and Canadian power.