UK financial data market escapes competition probe for now

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain’s financial data players have escaped an antitrust investigation for now after the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said on Thursday it had stopped short of referring parts of the market to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

In March, the FCA said that competition in parts of the wholesale financial data market, which includes information on stock prices used by investors to execute billions of dollars worth of trades and make investment decisions, was not working as well as it should.

It also launched a study to investigate if markets for benchmarks such as stock and bond indices, credit ratings from Moody’s, S&P, Fitch and others, and market data vendors such as LSEG and Bloomberg, are working well.

The FCA had set a deadline for Friday to decide whether to refer any of the three market sectors to the CMA.

Thursday’s FCA update highlights emerging issues in the three areas, including concerns about the market power of large and established market data distributors, leaving users with “little or no bargaining power”.

It also found that just three benchmark providers, LSEG’s FTSE Russell, MSCI and S&P account for the bulk of the market, with fee schedules in the ratings sector not typically publicly available for customers to compare prices.

Thomson Reuters, parent of Reuters News, holds a minority stake in LSEG, which pays Reuters for news.

“Data markets need to function well so that capital markets make well‑informed decisions on where and how to invest. This is essential for economic growth and the UK’s international competitiveness,” the FCA said on Thursday.

“While we believe there are reasonable grounds to suspect there are features of each of the relevant markets that prevent, restrict or distort competition in the UK,” it said.

“Our provisional view is that it is most appropriate for us to take forward further work to identify and address potential harm caused by these features ourselves,” the FCA added.

The FCA said it has been engaging with regulators in other countries who also face similar concerns.

Its consultation on the provisional decision not to refer parts of the market to the CMA runs until Sept. 29, with a further report by March 1, 2024 on its final decision and any action it could to take.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by David Goodman and Alexander Smith)