Investment Strategy

NYSE-owner ICE nears key Singapore launch

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Intercontinental Exchange reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday, helped by increased market data and listing revenue, and said it plans to launch its Singapore futures exchange and clearing house in the fourth quarter.

ICE, which began as an energy exchange in 2000 and has expanded through acquisitions of companies including the New York Board of Trade and the New York Stock Exchange, said it earned $283 million, or $2.54 a share, in the second quarter, compared with $226 million, or $1.95 a share, a year earlier.

ICE has trading and clearing operations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Continental Europe, and said Asia is a big focus going forward.

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The Atlanta-based company said in late 2013 it would buy the Singapore Mercantile Exchange as its regional trading and clearing hub. It planned to relaunch the exchange as ICE Futures Singapore and ICE Clear Singapore in March of this year. But opposition by China to ICE's plan to use Chinese prices as references for its cotton and white sugar futures led to delays.

ICE's customers have also taken longer than expected to connect to the new platform, prompting further delays, ICE Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Sprecher said on a call with analysts.

"We've done all the work that we've needed to do, put the staff in place, the systems in place and are basically ready to go," he said, regarding the fourth-quarter launch.

ICE has said it will begin trading contracts in 1 kilo (2.2 lb) gold futures, mini Brent crude futures and renminbi futures in Singapore. It plans to add other contracts later as demand for energy and commodities increases in the region.

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ICE has an office in China, but Sprecher said state controls on the financial services industry in that country make it difficult for foreign firms to become established there.

"I understand why that is and don't begrudge their government for wanting to have controls over that as they move their population into the middle class," he said.

"In any event, long story short, this Singapore launch for us is strategic and important."

Excluding acquisition-related expenses and other one-time items, profit at ICE in the quarter was $2.90 a share, topping the analysts' average estimate by 13 cents, according to Thomson Reuters.

Revenue rose 6 percent to $797 million, helped by contributions across ICE's commodities, cash equities, data services and listings businesses, Sprecher said.