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Dubai Gets Stake in US Nasdaq Stock Exchange


The U.S. tech-heavy stock exchange, Nasdaq, has struck a deal to sell a 20 percent stake to the United Arab Emirates-owned Borse Dubai, in exchange for control of the Nordic bourse operator OMX. But the deal was followed by Persian Gulf neighbor Qatar acquiring large stakes in the London Stock Exchange and OMX. The flurry of deals are shaking up global stock markets. But they are still subject to approval by shareholders and regulators in Europe and the United States, and to political scrutiny, as Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

The already complex landscape of global stock exchanges appears to be getting even more entangled. Nasdaq and Dubai settled their month-long battle for the Stockholm-based OMX stock exchange, in a deal that allows Nasdaq to have an overseas footprint, while giving Dubai footholds in both Nasdaq and the London Stock Exchange.

When the dust settled Thursday, it became clear that Dubai and Qatar had taken competing stakes in the London Stock Exchange and the Nordic exchange OMX.

Economic experts say the Persian Gulf states, flush with cash from soaring oil revenues, are buying overseas assets at a record rate, as they seek to diversify their economies beyond oil wealth.

Other experts point to the plummeting value of the U.S. dollar, which was at a record low against the Euro Thursday and on par with the Canadian dollar for the first time in more than 30 years. The weak dollar makes American assets cheaper to overseas buyers, who then step up their purchases. This in turn can create political tensions.

A bid 18 months ago by another state-owned company in Dubai to purchase operating rights at six U.S. ports unleashed a firestorm in the U.S. Congress, which ultimately killed the deal.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said she would like to learn more about the Nasdaq deal, but it does not appear to raise the same concerns as the port sale did.

"I don't know if it's raised alarm bells, but it has raised some questions. And I think it's quite a different issue than the ports issue because that really was a security issue, this is a marketplace issue," he said.

At a news conference, President Bush also indicated he will take a cautious approach, but he is not opposed to the deal.

"We are going to take a good look at it, as to whether or not it has any national security implications involved in the transaction. And I'm comfortable with the process to go forward," he said.

Legal experts say the transaction will face scrutiny on Capitol Hill and by U.S. government agencies. But the biggest challenge to the Nasdaq-Dubai deal may be Qatar, and its own acquisition ambitions.