Nasdaq Takes No Prisoners

I have to take my hat off to Bob Greifeld, the CEO of Nasdaq OMX (Nasdaq: NDAQ  ) . The company's second-quarter earnings were solid and the integration of Nordic exchange operator OMX -- no small task -- is well ahead of schedule. This vindicates Greifeld, who had previously asserted that his management team has a "maniacal focus on execution." [Full disclosure: I recommended Nasdaq Stock Market in the May 2007 issue of Motley Fool Inside Value.]

GAAP earnings per diluted share of $0.48 were $0.02 ahead of the analyst consensus, rising 23% from adjusted EPS in the prior-year quarter. Market volatility has promoted higher trading volumes in Nasdaq's traditional equities business and in its new derivatives operations.

If you're just thinking tech company listings, you haven't kept up
This is not your grandfather's Nasdaq. Once synonymous with high-tech listings, the company has made a big push into the lucrative business of derivatives with the acquisition of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, the third-largest U.S. options market. With 17% of the U.S. equity options market, Nasdaq trails only CME Group (Nasdaq: CME  ) and the International Securities Exchange (part of Deutsche Borse).

Looking forward, investors should continue to track the ongoing integration of OMX and the Philadelphia and Boston exchanges. Furthermore, the September launch of its pan-European market, Nasdaq OMX Europe, is an important milestone in Greifeld's ambition to replicate Nasdaq's success in Europe.

With the loosening of regulation in European financial markets, a number of new competitors have emerged. Project Turquoise, which counts Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) , Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS  ) , Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER  ) , and Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) among its founding members, is slated for a full launch in September.

One of the best bargains on Nasdaq may be Nasdaq itself
Even after yesterday's run-up, Nasdaq OMX shares are changing hands at 13.1 times next year's earnings -- quite a bargain compared to the S&P 500, which is trading at 19.1 times estimated 2009 earnings. Barely a week ago, I wrote that competitor NYSE Euronext (NYSE: NYX  ) looks cheap (the current share price is 11.2 times 2009 earnings). Outrageously cheap would be overstating things, but it's not every day that investors have the opportunity to buy shares in the two dominant firms in a global industry at what look like very reasonable prices.

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Alex Dumortier, CFA, has no beneficial interest in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. Nasdaq OMX Group is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. NYSE Euronext is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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