Anti-trust officials in the EU are prepared to block the proposed mega-merger between Deutsche Börse and the New York Stock Exchange over fears that the deal would stifle competition in the derivatives markets.
Unidentified sources cited by the Financial Times say that European Commission antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia is demanding that Deutsche Börse and Nyse sell either the Eurex derivatives arm or Liffe, a course of action which neither exchange is prepared to countenance.
Almunia and his team are taking a hard line on the issue, sources say, forcing the exchanges to engage in a furious last-ditch lobbying effort to rescue the deal.
The EU anti-trust staff are to present their findings and recommendations to the so-called college of 27 commissioners in early February.
A spokesman for the European Commission says: "The decision concerning this proposed merger is due to be taken by the Commission before February 9. Until the decision is taken, we cannot comment, confirm and/or deny anything."