E*Trade expands with Canadian trading deal

The Internet brokerage acquires Versus Technologies, a Canadian online trading service, for $174 million in stock.

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Internet brokerage E*Trade said today it has purchased Versus Technologies, a Canadian online trading service, for $174 million in stock.

The deal gives the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company access to Versus' retail and institutional clients. E*Trade also acquires the Versus Network, a proprietary electronic trading system that E*Trade will incorporate into its services worldwide.

Online brokerages have been rushing to establish an international presence with expectations that online trading will grow overseas. Ameritrade, E*Trade, Charles Schwab and others have been cutting deals and forming partnerships with regional players in numerous countries.

Earlier this year, E*Trade took 100 percent ownership of E*Trade U.K. as part of its plans for a global trading network. E*Trade has also formed strategic joint ventures in Germany, Denmark, Norway and South Africa.

Last August, E*Trade also bought TIR Holdings, an international services company that executes trades in different currencies in more than 35 countries. That acquisition gave E*Trade the operational and regulatory infrastructure necessary for global trading.

With today's transaction, Versus will return the Canadian E*Trade brand license to E*Trade, giving the American brokerage the opportunity to tap the potential growth of the Canadian retail market.

Canada is ranked among the top four countries in the world in terms of Internet use, the company said. Canadian online financial services are predicted to grow at a 36 percent compound annual growth rate through 2003, according to Forrester Research.

Versus will be renamed E*Trade Canada and will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of E*Trade. The agreement is subject to approval by Versus security holders and by Canadian and U.S. regulators.