UPDATE 2-ICE Q4 profit rises, but higher expenses weigh

jueves 31 de enero de 2008 18:10 CET

(Recasts; adds conference call details, analyst comments, updates share movement)

By Dinesh Nair

BANGALORE Jan 31 (Reuters) - IntercontinentalExchange Holdings Inc's (ICE.N: Cotización) quarterly profit rose 32 percent, but rising expenses and concerns stemming from a proposed merger between two of its rivals sent shares of the energy exchange skidding as much as 6.6 percent.

CME Group CME.N, the world's largest derivatives exchange, had on Monday offered to buy energy and metals exchange Nymex NMX.N for $11 billion.

ICE, which competes with Nymex in the energy derivatives market, has seen its shares sinking more than 8 percent since news of the proposed deal, but the company did not indicate it would make a counter bid for Nymex.

Pressure to expand across assets and regions has led to rampant consolidation among exchanges, and the proposed CME-Nymex deal has spawned speculation that ICE could come under the scanner for a buyout.

In response to a question about a possible counter bid for Nymex, ICE Chief Executive Jeffrey Sprecher said in a conference call, "There is nothing in my mind compelling about the timing of this merger announcement for ICE."

Analyst Cubillas Ding of Boston-based consulting firm, Celent, said the company's statement does indicate that it considered a potential Nymex bid, but it decided not to go ahead.

"The issue of whether or not ICE will join in the fray for Nymex is questionable," he wrote in an e-mailed statement.   Continuación...