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BATS sticks with Europe tech plan after IPO debacle

By Luke Jeffs

LONDON (Reuters) - BATS Global Markets is sticking with a plan to move its Chi-X platform, Europe's largest share trading venue, to its own technology, after a software bug forced the exchange operator to take the embarrassing step of pulling its own listing last week.

The pledge to press ahead with its technology plan comes days after the glitch which caused mayhem in U.S. stock markets and called into question BATS's challenge to incumbent stock exchanges, as well as the stability of high-speed trading.

The bug caused BATS shares to plunge from their $16 offering price and briefly trade for less than a penny on Friday, forcing the exchange to suspend trading of its own and other company shares, including Apple Inc .

The erroneous trades were later voided and late on Friday BATS said it would cancel its initial public offering and return money to investors who had bought its shares.

Still, BATS Europe, wholly owned by BATS Global Markets, said it would switch Chi-X Europe, which is the venue for about one fifth of all share trading in the region, to its technology platform next month, on schedule.

"We plan to move ahead with the Chi-X Europe migration to BATS technology on April 30 as scheduled and yesterday completed the first dress rehearsal with no issues," a spokeswoman for BATS Chi-X Europe said on Sunday.

BATS Europe wants to move Chi-X Europe, which it bought three months ago for about $300 million, to its own, in-house developed platform to make Chi-X faster and cut its cost of technology maintenance.

The spokeswoman stressed Friday's software bug was found in technology related to changes it had made to enable its IPO in the United States, and trading in Europe was not impacted.

REPUTATIONAL DAMAGE

Trading analysts said on Sunday the Chi-X technology migration was unlikely to be affected by the software glitch as neither Chi-X nor BATS Europe support IPOs.

"I suspect this problem was linked to the fact that they had to introduce a whole load of new code for the IPO, an area in which they are relatively inexperienced," said Niki Beattie, chief executive of consultancy The Market Structure Partners.

BATS technology has performed well in Europe and BATS Europe has had fewer major technology glitches than some of the region's largest exchanges, Beattie added.

But Simmy Grewal, senior analyst at research house Aite Group, said the reputation of the BATS platform had suffered a huge blow.

"Events on Friday will have massive implications going forward, as BATS looks to move into listings and futures trading in Europe," she said.

She also questioned where the pulled IPO left BATS investors, which include Citigroup Inc , Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse Group .

"Banks are desperate for cash at the moment and they must now all be wondering when they get to cash-in on BATS."

Founded in 2005, and headed by 45-year-old Joe Ratterman, BATS has captured about 11 percent of U.S. equity market volume and is now the third-largest platform in that market, after the NYSE Euronext and Nasdaq OMX .

BATS Europe has about 4 percent of European share trading but the firm's Europe franchise was given a boost late last year when it acquired Chi-X Europe, which has about 19 percent of regional share activity, Thomson Reuters data shows.

(Editing by Mark Potter)

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