(Recasts; adds conference call details, analyst comments, updates share movement)
By Dinesh Nair
BANGALORE, Jan 31 (Reuters) - IntercontinentalExchange Holdings Inc’s (ICE.N) 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.
ICE’s stock, which has fallen about 27 percent in 2008, trades at about 40 times estimated 2007 earnings per share.
The KBW Capital Markets Index .KSX, which includes brokerages and exchanges, has dropped about 9 percent this year.
The Atlanta-based energy and commodity exchange’s fourth-quarter net income rose to $64.7 million, or 90 cents a share, from $49.0 million, or 81 cents a share, a year ago.
Revenue rose 67 percent to $159.3 million. Analysts on average had expected a profit of 92 cents a share on revenue of $153.3 million, according to Reuters Estimates.
The company said certain non-cash compensation expenses related to its performance-based equity program reduced earnings for the quarter by 4 cents a share. It forecast non-cash compensation expense of $32 million to $34 million for 2008.
Transaction fee revenue for the quarter rose 60 percent to $132.6 million, helped mainly by implementation of electronic trading in most of its markets.
A shift to electronic trading has helped spike up volume growth across most of ICE’s assets classes, as trading moved from the floor to the computer screen.
ICE moved to electronic trading across all its platforms post its acquisition of the New York Board of Trade in January, 2007.
Average daily volume during the quarter for ICE’s global futures and OTC markets was 1.5 million contracts.
Shares of the company fell to a low of $129.18, before recouping most of its losses to trade down about 1 percent at $137.49 in midday trade on the New York Stock Exchange. (Editing by Pratish Narayanan)