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An ill-tempered fight for supremacy

Interdealer brokers Cantor Fitzgerald and Icap fought a bitter courtroom battle this year over staff poaching. Now the two are armed for conflict in electronic bond broking.


Interdealer electronic bond trading has had an unexpectedly dramatic year. Cantor Fitzgerald and its daughter company eSpeed have continued their impressive recovery from their September 11 losses, with the electronic execution platform now taking its place at the centre of Cantor's strategy.

Cantor and eSpeed also surprised many in the market by entering into public recriminations with arch-rival Icap over Icap's attempts to poach its staff. The UK press delighted in courtroom stories of high-paid brokers bullying each other before repairing to lap-dancing bars for rest and relaxation.

Soon after, Icap announced its intention to buy electronic trading system BrokerTec from the bank consortium that set it up. This deal generated fewer headlines than the court case but it could reshape the market and intensify competition between the courtroom adversaries.

Worth about $156 million in Icap shares at the time it was announced, the acquisition creates something close to a duopoly in the US treasuries market, with the two biggest brokers each now owning a popular electronic platform.

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