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Exchanges fight to host Twitter as revenues fall

Getting Twitter would help the Nasdaq repair its reputation after the problem-plagued stock market debut of Facebook in May 2012, which was followed by lawsuits.

Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

Getting Twitter would help the Nasdaq repair its reputation after the problem-plagued stock market debut of Facebook in May 2012, which was followed by lawsuits.

NEW YORK — Twitter’s stock debut is the biggest coming-out party since Facebook’s, and Wall Street’s largest exchanges are fighting to host it.

When its shares go public — most likely by Thanksgiving — Twitter executives could either ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange or sign the Nasdaq Stock Exchange’s digital screen.

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Either way, the initial public offering is much more than a photo op for the winner. Listing Twitter’s shares and overseeing their trading means adding revenue at a time when the NYSE and Nasdaq are losing business and struggling to keep up with changes in technology. Hosting this year’s hottest tech debut also gives the winner an edge when it tries to lure other IPOs, especially in the fertile area of social media.

Bloggers, traders, and the mainstream financial media are buzzing with rumors about Twitter’s choice. CNBC reported on Friday that Nasdaq’s CEO was visiting Twitter’s headquarters. Earlier reports said the micro blogging service was leaning toward the NYSE.

Adding Twitter would be another trophy for the NYSE as it continues to grab more of Nasdaq’s traditional turf in technology IPOs. Keeping Twitter from the NYSE would offer Nasdaq some redemption after its disastrous job of hosting Facebook’s IPO in May 2012, which resulted in lawsuits and a marred reputation.

‘‘I’d be shocked if Twitter went to the Nasdaq,’’ said Kevin Landis, a portfolio manager with Firsthand Funds who owns shares in Twitter. ‘‘The guys at Twitter want to do it as differently from Facebook as they possibly can.”

Each exchange is certain it’s the better candidate.

‘‘We feel very confident in our positioning and we would hope we have a great shot at Twitter,’’ says Bruce Aust, executive vice president at Nasdaq OMX Group.

‘‘We’re not strangers to technology companies,’’ said NYSE Euronext spokeswoman Marissa Arnold.

The NYSE, which traditionally did not woo technology companies, is expanding rapidly into that space. It won 13 of the 20 largest technology IPOs in 2012, according to data from Dealogic, and has won 10 out of 20 of the largest tech IPOs so far this year.

But neither exchange is guaranteed the stream of revenue they once earned. That’s because listing as a NYSE or Nasdaq company doesn’t mean traders will actually buy and sell stock on those exchanges.

For years, traders have been shifting business from major exchanges to smaller, more low-cost systems like Direct Edge or BATS. Both exchanges also have lost trading to ‘‘dark pools.’’ These less-regulated platforms are run by investment banks and allow big customers to fill large orders without alerting the broad market.

The average number of shares traded on the NYSE last month was 3.1 billion a day, compared with the roughly 6.3 billion shares traded at this time five years ago. The Nasdaq has seen similar declines.

Every time a share trades, the exchange where the company is listed charges various small fees. Some are a fraction of a penny, but when there’s billions of shares traded, pennies add up. If a listed share trades elsewhere, the fees are lower.

NYSE’s parent company made $2.3 billion in transaction and clearing fees in 2012; the Nasdaq made $2.56 billion.

Other money-makers include investor-relations software packages and networking.

Picking Nasdaq or NYSE is like choosing an elite fraternity, said Leslie Pfrang, a principal with Class V Group, an IPO advisory firm. Each exchange offers events with its other listed companies, a prime way to drum up business. ‘‘It’s almost like joining an organization or club where you need to feel a part of it,’’ Pfrang says.

Pfrang said the two exchanges are equally appealing. It boils down to whether Twitter wants to be associated with its tech counterparts or to trade among its customers, which are often consumer brands.

Even the most basic distinction between the exchanges — ticker symbols — has blurred. NYSE companies had tickers up to three letters, and Nasdaq had four. The NYSE now allows four-letter tickers. Twitter will use ‘‘TWTR.’’

Getting Twitter would help Nasdaq repair its reputation.

‘‘Think of it this way,’’ said Pfrang. ‘‘If all your friends are joining a particular club, you would want to join that club as well.’’

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