The New York Stock Exchange is aiming to go public by Thanksgiving of this year, NYSE officials said Friday.
"The goal would be to have a public offering by Thanksgiving," a spokesman told CBS.MarketWatch. "We can confirm that Merrill (Lynch) is doing a pro bono evaluation, and that we should have that evaluation presented at the September board meeting."
From there, the IPO proposal - or more accurately, the "de-mutualization proposal" - would go to the NYSE board and finally, on to the membership - the owners of the 1,366 seats at the NYSE.
Earlier, Chairman Richard Grasso said in an interview with Bloomberg News that he "fully expects" to see the NYSE trade its own the stock by Thanksgiving. Grasso also said it is a "distinct possibility" that the exchange might use money raised from an offering to buy an electronic communications network, or ECN.
The 207-year-old NYSE has faced growing competition from ECN's in trading securities and is considering several measures, including longer trading hours, to preserve its status as the world's largest securities market.
It would join a growing list of exchanges, including the Nasdaq Stock Market and the London Stock Exchange, that are considering going public to raise money to better compete. Some exchanges, like the Australian Stock Exchange and Germany's Deutsche Boerse AG, already have shares that are publicly traded.
Analysts said a public offering of the NYSE would break new ground and would, at this point, be difficult to value.
"There is no basis on which to value it," said James Marks, securities analyst with Deutsche Bank Securities "There are other public exchanges abroad but that really has no bearing. You certainly don't have any comparable businesses here."
"It's going to come down to what it can generate in terms of cash flows and that's where we're going to get into very interesting discussions," said Marks. "Certainly that to the extent they don't get into additional markets, all of the profitability increases will come at the expense of their current owners' profits. I think this will be a very contentious issue."
Written By Emily Church, New York bureau chief for CBS MarketWatch