The New York Stock Exchange’s parent company, Intercontinental Exchange Inc., agreed to acquire the tiny 136-year-old market operator for an undisclosed amount, according to a statement Thursday.
The deal follows a lengthy sale ordeal that included a takeover agreement from another group of buyers — a largely unknown collection of companies led by a Chinese conglomerate — that U.S. regulators rejected this year.
ICE’s takeover raises the question of why a behemoth would bother with a company that’s an afterthought in the U.S. stock market. The Chicago Stock Exchange handles less than 1 percent of the nation’s equity volume, while more than a fifth takes place on the three NYSE exchanges.
Though NYSE isn’t picking up a meaningful amount of business, it does get another license to operate an exchange. Those can either be acquired by going through a long approval process at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission or by taking over an existing market.
NYSE and its rivals Nasdaq Inc. and Cboe Global Markets Inc. have hoarded those licenses in recent years, in part because each gives them another vote on deciding the fate of important parts of the market’s infrastructure, including the lucrative data feeds that traders can’t operate without.
NYSE could also experiment on whatever market it sets up. After the Chicago Stock Exchange’s previous sale process fell apart, some speculated that a cryptocurrency company might try to purchase it, given that the SEC wants to shift some digital token trading onto regulated markets. NYSE in 2015 bought a stake in Coinbase, one of the biggest crypto exchanges.
Last week, people familiar with the matter said ICE would likely pay $50 million to $100 million for the exchange. ICE said Thursday that the deal’s “financial impact will not be material.” The Chicago Stock Exchange’s prior deal with the Chinese-led consortium was for about $20 million.