Aquis Exchange acquires minority stake in US block trading start-up OptimX Markets

Deal will expand the exchange’s block crossing capabilities; investment was made as part of a consortium including the venture capital arm of Deutsche Boerse Group.

UPDATED 8 August.

Aquis Exchange has moved to expand its block crossing remit with a minority stake in US-based equities block trading start-up OptimX Markets.

The deal, announced on Monday 7 August, was completed as part of a consortium which also includes the venture capital arm of Deutsche Boerse Group, DB1 Ventures.

Jonathan Clelland

According to the terms of the acquisition, the investment has been split into two tranches, payable in cash. As part of the first, Aquis will subscribe $750,000 out of a total first tranche of $3 million.

The second tranche in a year’s time will include a further $750,000 out of a total $3 million.

The deal will support Aquis’ expansion into conditional block trading and crossing, with further plans for Aquis to add conditional orders to its markets in the fourth quarter.

Aquis’ chief operating officer, Jonathan Clelland, is expected to join the board of OptimX Markets.

“This has been something in the making for quite a while. It’s part of Aquis’ developed strategy. We added the dark pool last year, then we added the dark lit order sweep. This is the next step, putting conditionals in, because clients want that capability,” Clelland told The TRADE.

OptimX Markets will build out their own platform which is currently equities only and un-regulated.

“Conditionals will be launched by Aquis later this year and that opens up the opportunity of going into the block business,” Clelland added. “Aquis will develop its conditionals alongside its other products and then when OptimX Markets is ready to go live with banks and institutions on blocks, they will work with us as we’re a logical partner in terms of their execution.”

The deal and the expansion into blocks compliments Aquis’ existing dark pool business, the Aquis Matching Pool (AMP). Formerly UBS MTF, Aquis assumed responsibility for its business activities in March 2022. The exchange has since been building on the offering, launching Dark to Lit Sweep functionality Aquis UK and Aquis EU markets in June.

“The investment in OptimX is a significant opportunity for Aquis, adding additional connectivity to our successful dark pool (the Aquis Matching Pool) and providing clients with the ability to cross large blocks,” said Aquis chief executive officer, Alasdair Hayne, in a statement. “This alongside Aquis’s growing functionality will further enhance the range of execution options available to our members.”