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July 31, 2004

Brokerages Target Direct Access

By Peter Chapman

Citigroup, six months after forming an electronic trading group, bought direct market access vendor Lava Trading.

The acquisition provides the big bank's equity group with technology it can use internally as well as offer to institutional customers. The deal is the fourth prominent acquisition of a direct access vendor by a major brokerage in the past year. "With this move, we will catapult to a leading position in electronic execution," said Jim Forese, head of Citigroup's global equities division.

New York-based Lava will operate as an independent subsidiary of Citigroup. Richard Korhammer will remain chief executive. Lava, by most accounts, wildly successful, made its mark four years ago. That's when it debuted its ECN aggregation and routing software to Nasdaq market makers. Citigroup chose to buy Lava, rather than just license its technology in order to utilize Lava's expertise in other product areas, according to a spokesperson. The transaction follows three similar ones of the past year: BNY Brokerage's purchase of Sonic Financial Technologies; Investment Technology Group's purchase of Radical Corporation; and Banc of America Securities' purchase of Direct Access Financial Corporation.