DealZone

High-frequency trading: useless and manipulative?

Floor tradersThe explosion of interest in high-frequency trading has started to drag new faces to sometimes staid industry conferences. Traders who for years worked on algorithms and computer codes behind the scenes are stepping into the spotlight. They’re appearing on more and more panel discussions, feeling the need to defend their practice against the slings and arrows of politicians and regulators.

So far, they’ve managed to mix exasperation with good humor. The head of one high-frequency trading shop, speaking on a panel this week, said that if you believe everything you read in newspapers you might think the practice is “an unfair, highly profitable and socially useless trading strategy implemented by highly secretive and unregulated traders using superfast computers to compete with retail investors, manipulate markets and front run flash orders causing volatility in the financial markets and creating systemic risk.”

He argued that a more accurate definition of high-frequency trading would be, “a wide variety of highly competitive, low margin trading strategies implemented by professional market intermediaries who have invested heavily in technology that have the effect of making the markets more efficient by enhancing liquidity and transparent price discovery to the benefit of investors.”

from Summit Notebook:

How to gum up an exchange merger: salt water

It's a puzzle M&A bankers and corporate executives have been trying to solve for years: how far from your home market can an acquisition take place and ultimately stumble over cultural differences? It's a question that looms large as quintessentially Italian automaker Fiat prepares to swallow up Chrysler -- inventor of the K-car and the minivan -- and which reportedly haunts St Louis-based employees of Anheuser Busch in the aftermath of their company's takeover by the penny pinching Belgians and Brazilians at InBev.

Gary Katz, CEO of Deutsche Boerse unit International Securities Exchange, insisted during his appearance at the Reuters Exchanges and Trading Summit that all has been sweetness and light since the Germans assumed control of the upstart American options exchange and that there has been "nearly zero turnover" since the takeover.

But Thomas Kloet, Chief Executive of Canadian exchange powerhouse TMX, was one of several executives at the summit who insisted that cross border mergers can often be a recipe for disaster and that the ideal mergers are "domestic roll-ups" like CME Group's takeover of Nymex and the Chicago Board of Trade or indeed TSX Group's takeover of the Montreal Exchange, which created TMX.

First Reserve’s deal war-chest expands

oilFirst Reserve is sitting on another $9 billion of spending money for energy deals after finishing raising its latest buyout fund, Fund XII. The private equity giant, which specialises in energy investments, said the fund is the largest ever raised in the energy sector and exceeds its previous fund, Fund XI, which raised $7.8 billion in 2006. 

The fund appears to be lower than target, however. London-based private equity intelligence firm Preqin said in a recent report that the fund had a $12 billion target.

“Energy remains a large, dynamic and complex industry where change creates new, attractive investment opportunities,” said William Macaulay, Chief Executive Officer of First Reserve in the press release (below).

Another deal in healthcare: what’s the magic pill?

pillsAs dealmakers everywhere struggle to get deals done, the healthcare industry seals yet another one.

Express Scripts has agreed to buy health insurer WellPoint’s prescription business for $4.68 billion in a significant expansion for the U.S. pharmacy beenfit manager. The deal will be a concoction of cash and up to $1.4 billion in common stock, and will generate more than $1 billion of incremental EBITDA.

This comes on the heels of Pfizer’s $68 billion acquisition of Wyeth, Merck’s $41.1 billion takeover of Schering Plough and Roche Holding’s $46.8 billion buyout of Genentech. Granted, this isn’t a pharma deal, but it still falls under the umbrella of the healthcare sector.

from Funds Hub:

Watch hedge fund manager Colin McLean give his market outlook

McLean was speaking today at London leg of the Reuters Hedge Fund and Private Equity Summit.

from Funds Hub:

A loud and clear call

rtr1y8m4It may not have been a massive surprise, but ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet had an unwelcome message for hedge fund managers today.

The current crisis is, apparently, "a loud and clear call" to roll out regulation to all important market players, "notably hedge funds and credit rating agencies".

For those hedge fund managers who felt, perhaps with a degree of justification, that their industry had been relatively blameless in precipitating the current crisis, that call may have been somewhat quieter and more muffled.