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Friday, September 10, 1999 Published at 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK

Business: The Company File

Pan-European e-broker planned

The new service will be a subisdiary of its Cortal online dealing service

French bank Paribas is planning to launch a pan-European Internet broker, allowing users in Europe to buy and sell shares in all major world markets at cheap rates.

While the European stock markets crawl towards integrated trading systems, the new service aims to take advantage of the appetite for cross-border European share dealing.

Most online trading firms limit investors to their home country's stock market and the main US markets.

And although cross-border trading was always possible with traditional banks, it has proved too costly to become widely used.

Discount brokers

According to the Wall Street Journal Europe, Paribas's brokerage unit, called e-cortal, will charge a flat 15 euro fee (9.70) for trades up to 5,000 euros (3,231) for any European stock. The same fee will be charged for US dealings.

This is cheaper than traditional brokers and many e-brokers offering home country only.

The newspaper reports that investors will be able to trade shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq market, as well as the exchanges in London, Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Milan, Madrid and Zurich through one account on a Website.

"We think we have a unique opportunity to become pan-European because of the euro and the Internet," Olivier LeGrand, chief executive of Cortal is reported to have told the Wall Street Journal Europe.

Paribas, recently taken over by Banque Nationalede Paris, has more than 450,000 customers in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and South Africa signed up to its Cortal discount broker service.

E-cortal,. which will be a subsidiary of Cortal, will allow US investors to use it from next year as a result of a deal with Ameritrade Holding.

Native languages

Cortal officials say their surveys of Internet users found a great deal of interest from investors in trading stocks from other markets.

The battle for the online trading market is hotting up.

ConSors Discount-Broker, Germany's biggest online broker measured by transactions, has bought a majority stake in French online broker Axfin in the first step of its own European expansion.

Pan-European brokers have taken time to develop because of the differing clearing and settlement systems which add costs to small trades. Until this year in Europe there was the added costs of currency conversions.

The French hope to solve this by using Paribas as E-cortal's custodian bank. To avoid hefty fees for cross-border money transfers, investors will deposit funds through Paribas subsidiaries in their home country.

E-cortal will be offered in the UK, Germany, Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, France, Spain and Italy. All except the UK are part of the euro-zone.

E-cortal's rate undercuts those of both Charles Schwab and E*Trade Group in the UK, but is five euro cents above that of French discount broker SelfTrade.

E-cortal's Web site will include news from Agence France Press and AFX wire services as well as a service that e-mails companies' press releases in the investors' native language, in an effort o help investors keep track of developments in other countries.

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