OM and iX - technology moves markets

When AOL made its play for Time Warner this year the world reeled at the sight of the established media institution being won over by a new media company, a company that understands technology.

When AOL made its play for Time Warner this year the world reeled at the sight of the established media institution being won over by a new media company, a company that understands technology.

But eventually many people agreed the deal makes sense because it provides both parties with strengths they badly need. It also showed the technology industry has matured enough to play on the same stage as the old men of commerce. Now Swedish firm OM is gunning for the London Stock Exchange (LSE), a venerable institution that forms part of the commercial bedrock of a nation. OM's bid - now hostile - will probably not succeed, but even so, it demonstrates how central ebusiness has become to even the most traditional of commercial processes. In the ongoing LSE-Deutsche Börse deal to form iX, a new international exchange, older players are trying to control the inevitable and highly desirable consolidation of Europe's bourses by developing a shared settlement system. But the OM bid shows that effectively it is now settlement systems that run exchanges, and not vice versa. The tail is wagging the dog. The growth of internet share dealing has followed the US trend and proliferated in the continent. The implicit question is why do we need exchanges at all now? Similarly, the rise in B2B e-marketplaces calls into question the validity of established commodities brokers. Just this week the Colombian Coffee Federation, which exports 10 million bags of the stuff worldwide, signed up with B2B marketplace Bolero.net. This follows the launch this summer of an online coffee marketplace for raw coffee beans, eGreenCoffee.com. All of these initiatives highlight how electronic markets are starting to call the shots. And it is a point not lost on the creators of iX. Whether or not OM succeeds, one thing is certain - the LSE's shareholders will vote for whoever ensures the exchange's long-term profitability. That ultimately means being pan-European and online.