Author Archives: Dominic Martin

Should we be Worried When Competitive Arenas Compete with Each Other?

[Ed. Note: This is the debut post by founding member, Dominic Martin.]

The Deutsche Boerse announced this week that it was in advanced talks to buy NYSE Euronext in a deal that would create the world’s largest stock market.

And by complete coincidence, on the very same day, the London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) had also announced that it would merge with the TMX Group Inc. (who owns the Toronto Stock Exchange). Both of these mergers (Frankfurt-New York and London-Toronto) are presented as a necessary measure to compete with other stock markets at the international level.

So here is a big question. If competition is justified within properly regulated and self-contained competitive arenas, should it also be justified, at a “meta-level,” between these arenas themselves?

My intuitive answer is … yes.

Because competition already goes on at many different levels: corporations compete against each other (obviously), but also, in other ways, with their suppliers and their customers; consumers compete with each other over products that are scarce (houses, for instance, or art), and even national markets compete with each other to attract investors, increases their exports, and so on. What is a tax haven, if not a competitive national economy that plays “dirty” at that game? (Or so say highly taxed and less internationally competitive economies, like Canada or France.) Competition among stock markets also contributes to the dynamic that makes rivalry desirable in the first place.

However, a few things have to be kept in mind regarding the London-Toronto stock exchange merger:

  • What Canadians will gain, in terms of stocks volume, they will lose in terms of control over their own national stock market.

Even if LSE CEO Xavier Rolet is seeking to reassure Torontonian financiers, and even if the Canadian authorities will require some guarantees that TMX won’t lose all its sovereignty in the merger, the fact remains that the bigger player is the LSE. It will hold 55% of the share of the new corporation. It will occupy eight seats at the Board of directors, compared to seven seats for TMX. What will happen when UK’s financial interests conflict with Canada’s? To ask the question is to answer it.

In 2008 TMX acquired the Montreal Stock Exchange. Let’s just say that Montreallers’ interests would now be even further down the food chain.

  • If you are out in the market of stock markets, ready to merge with another player, why not go after the biggest one?

The TMX-LSE merger will create the biggest stock market in the world in terms of subscribers, but only the second in terms of market capitalization. The first one being the New York Stock Exchange (now I let you do the math if NYSE Euronext is acquired by the Deutsche Boerse). So why didn’t the TMX try to merge with that group? Shouldn’t Canadian’s benefit ever more from that transaction?

The fact that the stock markets owned by TMX and LSE specialized in similar product might be an acceptable rationale, however. Once taken together, the London and Toronto stock exchanges will become the biggest market for merchandise, natural resources, energy, and small- and medium-sized businesses in the world.

  • Did they really have a choice? And if not, what does the TMX Group should be accountable for?

Technological development (that allows decentralization of transactions) and the integration of world-wide economies (that increase the size of markets and corporations) have pushed many stock exchange to merge since 2000. Some like to say that these mergers are unavoidable (see Professor Louis Gagnon’s comments in the Globe and Mail for instance). If it is the case, does it wave all obligations for the corporations that own these stock markets? Ought they to promote their respective national interests?

 

Advertisements