New York Stock Exchange poised to become German-owned

A potential merger would make a German company majority owners of the New York Stock Exchange, the symbolic headquarters of American capitalism.

NYSE signage adorns the top of trading posts on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday. Stock market operator NYSE Euronext confirms it's in 'advanced discussions' about a potential business combination with Germany's Deutsche Boerse AG.

Two decades ago many Americans were dismayed when Rockefeller Center turned Japanese in a mega real-estate deal. Now the storied New York Stock Exchange might be on its way toward majority ownership by Germany's Deutsche Boerse AG.

The NYSE isn't just a Manhattan icon, it's the symbolic headquarters of American capitalism.

At least for now.

Deutsche Boerse and NYSE Euronext, both of which already operate financial exchanges in Europe, are in advanced talks for a merger in which the German company would have a majority stake.

So is American capitalism about to come to an end?

No, but the prospective deal serves as another reminder to Americans that their prosperity at home increasingly depends on a global web of business ties. And it could be a symbolic blow to the idea that New York is no longer preeminent as a capital of world finance.

"This will further confirm in the minds of world political and financial leaders [the notion] ... of an economic super power in decline," said Peter Morici, a University of Maryland economist, in a written comment Thursday.

The financial implications, should the companies reach a deal and obtain regulatory approval, are less clear.

In a joint statement Wednesday confirming their talks, the two companies sketched a vision in which both sides would gain from cost-saving synergies and enhanced stature, as they compete against other exchanges for business. This would benefit both clients and the exchange's own profits, the NYSE said.

Some Wall Street traders agree. And none other than New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in a press conference, welcomed the possible merger.

"I think it's very good for New York to have two of the strongest exchanges together. It's going to give us access to Europe, and the Europeans access to the States in a way that our competitors, like London, will not have," he said.

Mr. Morici, however, worries that foreign ownership might lead to a migration of some financial business away from New York.

The two companies said a merger would create the "world’s largest exchange operator by revenues and profit," a global leader in stock trading and so-called derivative transactions.

Exchanges earn their money from fees when corporations list their shares for purchase, when trades are executed, and when they sell auxiliary services such as market data.

News of the possible merger comes amid a wave of global consolidation in financial exchanges. Also this week, the London Stock Exchange and TMX Group (parent of the Toronto Stock Exchange) announced a merger.

The combined stock-exchange giant would have dual headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, and New York.

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