BioWorld International Correspondent

LONDON - Nasdaq will acquire 58 percent of Easdaq, the pan-European high-tech stock market, and turn it into the European leg of a 24-hour global trading platform. The overall aim is to expand European order flow in Nasdaq-listed stocks, create a European initial public offering market of choice for biotechnology and other high-tech companies, and expand cross-border trading.

"This is brilliant news for biotechnology," Glyn Edwards, CEO of Easdaq-listed Antisoma plc, told BioWorld International. "There is a need for a pan-European high market. Nasdaq has said it will beef up the trading platform, which will be important compared to the way Easdaq was drifting. But to be successful it must also attract more companies to list, and build up trading volumes.

"Easdaq is not a strong market, and it will take time, but Nasdaq has the advantage of brand and a neutral position as it attempts to build a pan-European market."

Taking control of Easdaq is very much a second choice for Nasdaq, which has been making overtures to the London Stock Exchange and the Deutsche Borse. A re-energized Easdaq will be in direct competition with London's TechMark and Frankfurt's Neuer Markt high-tech stock markets.

Nasdaq said it will spend US$60 million to restructure Easdaq, based in Brussels, into a globally linked pan-European market called Nasdaq Europe. Armed with a new trading platform it will aim to undercut rivals by reducing the cost of cross-border trading and settlement. Nasdaq said it views this transaction as its first step in the consolidation of trading in Europe, adding, "Discussions with other markets and major market participants, however, will continue."

Easdaq has attracted only 62 listings since its launch five years ago, with the number of IPOs in 2000 a dismal three. This compares to more than 330 companies that have listed on the Neuer Markt in Frankfurt, Germany, since its formation a few months after Easdaq. In 2000 there were over 100 IPOs on the Neuer Markt.

Antisoma, based in London, listed on Easdaq in December 1998. Edwards said, "We are not disappointed by what Easdaq did for us. We were the only biotechnology company in Europe to list in the last quarter of 1998, and we could only do it because Easdaq gave us reach. But overall the market hasn't done well."

Antisoma subsequently listed in London as well. The other biotechnology companies that went public on Easdaq are Chemunex and Innogenetics, while deCode Genetics and Pharming have secondary listings.

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