Exclusive-EquiLend stock lending platform for sale after collusion settlement -sources

By Amy-Jo Crowley, David French and Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro

(Reuters) – EquiLend Holdings LLC, the securities lending platform owned by 10 of the biggest Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc and BlackRock Inc, is exploring a sale following settlement of a major collusion lawsuit, people familiar with the matter said.

The company is working with investment bank Broadhaven Capital Partners on an auction process, which is expected to draw interest from exchange operators, financial technology providers and private equity firms, said the sources. Euronext NV is one of the parties interested in EquiLend, one of the sources added.

EquiLend generates 12-month earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of more than $25 million, two of the sources said. One of the sources added that EquiLend may fetch about $700 million in a sale.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information. EquiLend and Broadhaven did not respond to comment requests. Euronext declined comment.

Euronext shares rose 2% to 66.45 euros on Friday.

It was unclear why the Wall Street firms that own EquiLend, which also include Bank of America Corp, Morgan Stanley, UBS Group AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co, are exploring a sale two decades after they launched it as a joint venture.

EquiLend agreed to corporate governance restrictions last month, including on how its board operates, to settle a lawsuit brought by several U.S. public pension funds accusing it of facilitating market collusion by its owners.

Founded in 2001, EquiLend provides a central platform for the trading of products associated with securities lending, as well as data and analytics for the industry and compliance technology.

It works with around 190 financial firms globally and has a staff of more than 330 people, according to its website.

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley and UBS agreed to pay $499 million last month to settle the lawsuit that accused them of conspiring to stifle competition in the stock lending market using EquiLend.

The lawsuit claimed the banks used their positions on EquiLend’s board to maintain monopoly control over the market, and charge excessive fees to investors. The banks did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

(Reporting by Amy-Jo Crowley and Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro in London and David French in New York; Editing by David Gregorio)


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