The American Stock Exchange, put up for sale by its parent, the National Assn. of Securities Dealers, said Wednesday that it has six potential bidders. Bankers involved in the sale said the parent of Hong Kong's exchange is among them.
"We have half a dozen parties that have expressed interest," said Robert Rendine, spokesman for the Amex. "We are still in the initial phases and we have had no direct talks with anyone."
The NASD is selling the Amex--the No. 3 U.S. exchange, far behind the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market--three years after buying it.
The NASD also is spinning off the Nasdaq market. Once free of its exchanges, the organization will focus on its role as a market regulator.
Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. is interested in buying part or all of the Amex, analysts said. "Hong Kong Exchanges is trying to deploy some of its cash," said Stephen Kam, an analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co.
Singapore Exchange Ltd. and a venture capital firm also are considering bids, according to published reports.
A spokeswoman for Hong Kong's stock exchange declined to comment. A Singapore Exchange spokesman also declined to comment.
Hong Kong Exchanges wants to create a 24-hour trading network by linking with other exchanges, analysts said. Exchanges worldwide are consolidating and forging alliances as investors demand access to a wider range of securities on one trading platform across many time zones.
The Amex, established in the early 19th century, lists 600 mostly small and mid-sized companies. The NYSE has about 2,800 companies and Nasdaq almost 4,000.
Far more important than company stock trading at the Amex is trading in "put" and "call" options and activity in baskets of stocks known as exchange-traded funds.