(Bloomberg) -- SIX Swiss Exchange AG is weighing the acquisition of a European Union bourse if a ban on trading Swiss stocks in the bloc persists or the situation worsens, according to people familiar with the matter.

A deal could involve a full or partial acquisition or partnership, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. Potential targets include Spain’s Bolsas y Mercados Espanoles SA and Austria’s Wiener Boerse AG, one person said. While the owner of the Zurich bourse hasn’t retained a formal adviser, investment banks are helping identify targets, the people said. SIX has about $1 billion for acquisitions since selling its payment unit last year.

SIX is looking at options in case a ban on the trading of Swiss equities in the European Union -- in force since last month -- endures or escalates, the people said. The origins of the stock trading ban lie in a dispute between Bern and Brussels over an agreement to streamline political ties, though trading volumes in July remained resilient.

The group is currently prioritizing deals to expand its financial information business, the people said.

‘SIX currently sees no need to buy a stock exchange in the EU. Although inorganic growth is part of the SIX strategy, the focus lies in the area of the financial data business,” it said in a statement. “If, for whatever theoretical reason, the situation surrounding market access to the EU were to worsen, SIX would have to consider different options.”

SIX initially declined to comment and the the Wiener Boerse declined to comment. The Spanish bourse didn’t respond to a request for comment on a public holiday.

Bolsas y Mercados Espanoles rose as much as 3.2% in Madrid on Thursday, while shares in Amsterdam-based Euronext NV jumped as much as 2.5%.

SIX Group AG Chief Executive Officer Jos Dijsselhof told newspaper NZZ am Sonntag in an interview that the bourse also holds a stake worth more than 3 billion francs in Worldline. He said that could be cut to fund purchases.

While gaining an EU foothold is a consideration for SIX, it’s not yet developed into concrete discussions, two of the people said. The exchange’s deliberations come amid a wave of consolidation that’s seen the majority of bourses controlled by a handful of companies. Euronext earlier this year bought the Oslo stock exchange in a deal that saw it beat rival Nasdaq Inc. SIX is owned by a group of Swiss banks including UBS Group AG and Credit Suisse Group AG.

SIX chairman Romeo Lacher also holds the same position at Julius Baer Group Ltd., the nation’s third-biggest wealth manager.

The Swiss bourse lost EU recognition for Swiss equities on July 1, prompting Switzerland to retaliate with provisions to keep its stock market liquid as the exchange found itself a bargaining chip in long-running negotiations between its own government and the EU.

SIX reported a 34.2% increase in equities trading volume in July, a sign the government’s strategy of shielding the market was successful.

(Adds SIX comment in fifth paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Winters in Zurich at pwinters3@bloomberg.net;Jan-Henrik Förster in London at jforster20@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Dale Crofts at dcrofts@bloomberg.net, Ross Larsen

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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