Nasdaq ponders opportunities on return to profit

Nasdaq ponders opportunities on return to profit

Nasdaq chief Bob Greifeld has talked of the possibility of buying another electronic communications network (ECN) after steering the New York-based stock market back to profitability in the fourth quarter.

The comments came as Nasdaq posted a quarterly net profit of $7.4 million, compared with a $21 million net loss in the fourth quarter of 2003, following a year of cost-cutting and lay-offs under Greifeld's watch. Revenue in the quarter climbed 21.8% to $168.1 million thanks to a 34.6% jump in Nasdaq's market-services revenue, which reached $116.2 million, on trading-volume and market-share gains.

The exchange, which has already snapped up the Brut ECN, has been held up as a possible buyer of Instinet, which is currently being hawked around by majority shareholder Reuters.

Speaking to reporters after markets closed Thursday, Greifeld said Nasdaq was interested in aquiring other entitities "if certain opportunities present themselves."

He added that any transaction would have to be accretive to earnings within 12 months.

Questioned on the possibility of the exchange extending its trading hours to open earlier in the day, Greifeld said there didn't seem much appetite among users, particularly on the West coast. Nasdaq rival Nyse is said to be still pondering the possibility of longer trading hours, but no firm decisions have been made as yet.

Looking to the year ahead, Nasdaq is forecasting net income in the range of $35 million to $42 million, on the promise of reduced expenses. Cost-savings will come from a continuing migration to lower-cost technology, office closures and redundancies.

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