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Whose price is it anyway? (data swapping in the financial information business)

WHOSE PRICE IS IT ANYWAY?

There's one prospect in the financial information business that should have all the players quaking: the possibility of a globecircling tie-up between Reuters and Citicorp.

Consider the facts. Citicorp now owns Los Angeles-based Quotron, the information company dominant in the North American securities market. Reuters, the news and financial information collective headquartered in London, is equally dominant in the European securities market.

But except for a firm presence in the Manhattan foreign exchange market, Reuters is weak in North America in both information gathering and distribution. It buys its North American securities data from the time-sharing network ADP. But this agreement expires on December 31 and it will not be renewed. This will leave a big hole in Reuters' database--which means it will almost certainly be in the market for North American securities again.

That's where Quotron comes in. Of its near-100,000 screens, only 10,000 are outside the US. If Reuters gave Quotron its unsurpassed European prices, and Quotron fed Reuters, in return, its US securities markets information, it would be the mightiest information system in the world.

At the moment, it's a speculation based only on the obvious logic of such an agreement.