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BANKING

Europe's Stock Markets: North-south split on exchange alliance

The race towards a pan-European exchange speeded up on March 11 when Borsa Italiana, the Italian stock market, agreed to cooperate with the Paris and Swiss bourses in their effort to create a single market for the new century.

With the euro beginning to forge a single economy, investors all over the continent are increasingly demanding standardized rules and one single exchange now that national economic boundaries have been swept away by Emu.

"Without any currency risk, a lot of investors are changing benchmarks and there is a massive asset reallocation going on," explains Roger Nagioff, head of European equities at Lehman Brothers. "These cross-border investments are becoming increasingly common on the continent and Europe would benefit from a centralized stock exchange now more than ever."

In his opinion, it will not take long to come to reality. "It could be a question of 18 months before it happens" he says.

In effect, negotiations have already been going on for a long time. The London Stock Exchange and the Deutsche Börse were the first to move. In July last year they signed an alliance with the ultimate aim of creating a single exchange for the top European blue chips from 2000.

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