OFT refuses to lift LME e-trading ban

OFT refuses to lift LME e-trading ban

The Office Fair Trading (OFT), the UK's antitrust regulator, has refused to lift a temporary ban on the extension of electronic trading hours at the London Metal Exchange (LME), even though the company that originally complained about the move has withdrawn its case.

The OFT issued an 'interim measures direction' against the LME earlier this week following a complaint from Spectron Group, a voice broker in the energy trading market, that any extension in the operating hours of LME's Select e-trading system would force its own eMetal platform out of the market.

The temporary ban - the first use of an interim measures direction - was imposed just before the LME was due to extend the hours of the Select platform to cover the Asian trading day. The system currently opens from 7am to 7pm London time and the exchange had intended to extend trading hours to 1am to 7pm from 1 March.

However Spectron has since written to its LME customers indicating that it had withdrawn its request in light of "changed circumstances". According to press reports, the letter calls for the temporary ban to be lifted because the OFT's measures attracted negative publicity in the market and restricted liquidity.

The OFT says it is seeking urgent clarification and explanation from Spectron and the LME in relation to the current position, but says the interim measures direction remains in force.

An OFT spokeswoman told reporters that it may take up to six months to review the interim ruling.

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