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ICE's CEO says has fielded calls about selling Euronext

Jeff Sprecher, chief executive officer of IntercontinentalExchange speaks during the Sandler O'Neill global exchange and brokerage conferenc
Jeff Sprecher, chief executive officer of IntercontinentalExchange speaks during the Sandler O'Neill global exchange and brokerage conferenc

By Christine Stebbins

MIAMI BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - IntercontinentalExchange Inc has received inquiries from rivals interested in buying NYSE Euronext's European stock exchanges once ICE completes its planned purchase of the New York-based exchange operator, ICE's chief executive said on Monday.

Jeff Sprecher, whose $8.2 billion deal to buy the Big Board parent took markets by surprise in late 2012, said he is not considering any offers.

"We have received calls from other exchanges," Sprecher told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the Commodity Markets Council's annual meeting of exchange leaders and their customers. "It's not ICE's business to sell. We only have an agreement to buy it, but it's subject to a lot of approvals and shareholder votes. It's not a done deal so it's not even my position that I could even entertain those type of conversations.

He did not say which exchanges had made inquiries.

Three sources close to ICE told Reuters earlier in January the Atlanta-based exchange operator would consider a sale of Euronext for the right price.

The NYSE unit includes the Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Lisbon stock exchanges.

On Monday, Sprecher appeared to disavow such a move, reiterating the company's plan to turn the Euronext into an independently governed entity.

The idea of separating the European stock-exchange unit from the merged ICE-NYSE business was put forward in order to help win approval for the deal from regulators, who have tripped up prior attempts at mega-mergers in the exchange world.

Last year, the Justice Department blocked an $11 billion joint hostile bid by ICE and Nasdaq OMX Group on concerns that the tie-up would dominate U.S. stock listings. A rival $9.3 billion bid by Deutsche Boerse AG ran afoul of European regulators.

An ICE regulatory filing on Monday underscored the importance of avoiding such an outcome, noting that the draft merger agreement proposed a "hell-or-high-water" obligation to obtain regulatory approval and that termination fees be available to NYSE if ICE failed to consummate the deal.

The offer to spin Euronext off as a stand-alone company was seen as a way to help convince European regulators that the deal between the two U.S. exchange operators would not affect market interests in Europe.

"I don't think ICE or me as an American should make the determination who the better partner should be" for Euronext, Sprecher said. "I think it's better that we give Euronext an independent valuation and board and governance and let European interest decide how best to organize in Europe."

Duncan Niederauer, NYSE's CEO, has also ruled out a sale.

(Writing by Ann Saphir and John McCrank; editing by Matthew Lewis)

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