ICE chief looks for acquisition targets

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Jeffrey Sprecher, chief executive of Intercontinental­ Exchange, said on Friday he was looking for acquisition targets as he reported record profits from the electronic commodities exchange.

He said that the demand for commodities would only continue to increase because of the growth of the middle classes in emerging economies, and that ICE was “very focused on a number of opportunities in new and underserved markets”.

“This new middle class is driving increased demand for products such as sugar and cotton, which are traded on ICE,” he said. “I believe demand for commodities will only increase during our lifetime, as this new middle class develops.”

Acquisitions could help ICE hold its own as the fast-consolidating world of exchanges moves towards the creation of “super exchanges” such as Nasdaq OMX, NYSE Euronext and the CME Group, which is in the process of taking over Nymex, ICE’s closest rival in energy derivatives trading.

Mr Sprecher surprised the exchange world last year when he entered a bidding war with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to take over the Chicago Board of Trade.

Although he lost out on that occasion, the ICE chief has completed a string of acquisitions, including the former New York Board of Trade and, most recently, Yellowjacket, an electronic platform for over-the-counter trading that is dominant in weather contracts.

His comments came as ICE reported record profits and revenues in the first quarter, as rising commodity prices and volatility in energy and agricultural markets prompted record quarterly volume of more than 100m contracts.

The exchange group’s net income in the first quarter was $92.3m, or $1.29 per share, up from $55.6m or 80 cents per share a year ago.

Consolidated revenues increased by 64 per cent to $207.2m, from $126.6m in the first quarter of 2007. The period marked the ninth ninth consecutive quarter in which ICE has posted record revenues.

ICE’s share price had increased 1 per cent to $161.05 by early afternoon in New York.

ICE is establishing its own clearing house in London to compete with LCH.Clearnet. The exchange group plans to open the clearing house for business this summer, pending approval from the UK’s Financial Services Authority.

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