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London Stock Exchange Annual Profits Rise 55%

The London Stock Exchange Group's annual net profit rose 55% as hedge funds and specialist traders boosted the number of average daily trades, the bourse reported Wednesday.

But LSE Chief Executive Clara Furse, who has rejected five takeover attempts in two years, remained tightlipped about future avenues of growth.

Net profit for the 12 months ended March 31 totaled 109.6 million pounds ($217.3 million), up from 70.7 million pounds the previous year. Revenue rose 20% to 349.6 million pounds ($693.3 million).

The gains were driven by strong trading volumes on SETS, the exchange's electronic order book. The bourse said the average daily volume on SETS rose 58% and new issue values were up 57%. The LSE deployed an extra 12,000 terminals during the year, bringing the total to 116,000.

Furse, who rebuffed two approaches from theNasdaq Stock Marketby emphasizing the standalone growth prospects of the LSE, said the exchange continues to have "positive trading momentum" and is confident of delivering another year of strong growth.

However, profit margins slipped, with the average SETS yield declining to 1.32 pounds ($2.62) from 1.53 pounds in the prior year.

Furse said she expected those declines to continue, describing them as a "positive outcome" to efforts by the exchange to attract business by narrowing the spreads on trades, ultimately leading to a "virtuous circle" of higher volumes and a more efficient market.

Furse noted that money raised from initial public offerings on the LSE and its secondary market AIM, totaling 29 billion pounds ($57.4 billion), was the highest in the world and more than that of the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq combined.

However, she revealed little about the exchange's strategy for expansion, saying only that the LSE will "continue to explore all avenues to growth" and will "act as opportunities arise."

Analysts believe the LSE faces growing challenges after a series of cross-border mergers such as the NYSE's acquisition of European exchange operator Euronext. The LSE also may need to contend with new competitors including a consortium of banks developing a trading platform known as Project Turquoise.

Asked to comment on Turquoise, Furse said: "The reason we have the success story that we have today in the London market is because we've always had to compete for order-book growth."

The LSE is nearing completion of its Technology Roadmap, a four-year program to move the exchange's core systems to high-speed, flexible technology. Its new TradElect system, with five times the capacity and a quicker execution than the current system, is due to go live in London in June.

LSE shares were unchanged at 197 pence ($3.91).

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