Last October's $25 billion merger announcement between Chicago Mercantile Exchange Holdings (NYSE:CME) and Chicago Board of Trade (NYSE:BOT) looked like marital bliss. But with a shareholder vote to finalize the merger scheduled for April 4, IntercontinentalExchange (NYSE:ICE) is now making its own move on the CBOT, with a blockbuster offer of $9.9 billion.

ICE, established in 2000, trades energy futures on a next-generation platform. It's posted stunning growth; revenue more than doubled last year, from $155.9 million to $313.8 million. In the same period, ICE amassed a juicy $143.3 million in net income, or $2.40 per share.

Buying the CBOT should help maintain ICE's heady growth. Last year, Chicago Board of Trade's revenue increased 34% to $621.1 million, and its net income rose 126% to $172.2 million, or $3.26 per share.

Combined, ICE and CBOT could realize cost savings of $240 million, and the deal would likely be accretive to cash earnings within 18 months of closing. Such projections tend to be conservative, and ICE has already shown its integration prowess in its $1.1 billion purchase of the New York Board of Trade.

The CME's response to ICE's bid was muted, indicating that its own deal remained on track. I'm sure that behind the scenes, the executives who've put six months' work into this deal are probably irate with the ICE. A CME-CBOT merger would net $125 million in cost savings, and the combined organization would control 85% of the U.S. futures markets.

Unfortunately for CME, CBOT's shares spiked 17% to $194.95 following the ICE bid. That puts its market cap at a whopping $10.3 billion, which forces the CME to boost is $9 billion bid. It may also be an opening for other suitors to lob a bid, such as NYSE Group (NYSE:NYX) or NYMEX Holdings (NYSE:NMX).

Keep in mind that the supertraders playing these shares are merger arbitrageurs. They can make quick profits if they guess right, and they often hire consultants and antitrust attorneys to help with their analysis. Fears that a CME/CBOT combination would create a monopoly of the U.S. futures market have even attracted the Justice Department's scrutiny.

It's complex stuff, and not a safe place for Foolish investors. Keep your money to yourself, but feel free to pull up chair and watch. This should be a pretty good fight.

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Fool contributor Tom Taulli, author of The Complete M&A Handbook, does not own shares mentioned in this article. He is currently ranked 1,817 out of 24,388 in CAPS.