When the London Metal Exchange confirmed last September that its members and shareholders were willing to consider takeover bids, CEO Martin Abbott wasn’t expecting to be inundated with offers. Within weeks, however, more than a dozen potential buyers — a group that includes the CME Group, IntercontinentialExchange and a joint bid by the London Stock Exchange Group and Singapore Exchange, according to industry analysts — had expressed interest in acquiring the business, which is the world’s largest trading platform for nonferrous metals. 

Now, five months later, the LME’s board of directors is poised to decide the exchange’s fate. On February 23 it will meet to consider initial bids for the LME, which recently reported record annual trade volumes — volumes that rose 21.9 percent year over year to 146.6 million lots in 2011. The exchange also posted record trade value in 2011, which increased by 32.8 percent year over year to $15.4 trillion. If the board approves a takeover, the coming sale will mark the end of an era for the LME, which was founded 135 years ago above a London hat shop and has fiercely guarded its autonomy ever since.

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