It has been looking for a partner. Last year, ICE and Nasdaq OMX Group Inc., which competes with the NYSE for stock listings, made an $11 billion bid to buy NYSE Euronext. But that deal fell apart after regulators raised antitrust concerns.
Deutsche Boerse AG, a German company, made a bid for NYSE Euronext, but that was scuttled by European regulators.
ICE was established in May 2000. Its founding shareholders represented some of the world's largest energy companies and financial institutions, according to the company's most recent annual report.
Its stated mission was to transform the energy futures market by providing more transparency. The company has expanded through acquisitions during the last decade and went public -- on the NYSE -- in November 2005.
Analysts forecast that ICE's revenue will reach $1.4 billion this year, more than double the $574 million it reported in 2007.
"We believe the combined company will be better positioned to compete and serve customers across a broad range of asset classes by uniting our global brands, expertise and infrastructure," said ICE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Sprecher.
Sprecher will keep his positions. Four members of the NYSE board will be added to ICE's board, expanding it to 15 members.
For each share of NYSE Euronext stock that they own, shareholders can choose either $33.12 in cash, roughly a quarter-share of ICE, or a combination of $11.27 in cash and roughly one-sixth of a share of ICE.
NYSE's stock jumped $8.20, or 34 percent, to $32.25 in heavy trading shortly after the market opened. ICE's stock closed up $1.79, or 1.4 percent, at $130.1 after falling at the open of trading.
ICE plans to pay for the cash part of the acquisition with a combination of cash and existing debt. It added that the deal will help it cut costs and should increase its earnings more than 15 percent in the first year after the deal closes.
The deal has been approved by the boards of both companies, but still needs the approvals by regulators and shareholders of both companies. It's expected to close in the second half of next year.
Caldwell, of Caldwell Securities, said that this combination of companies and the pressure of ever-declining fees will likely lead to further mergers in the exchange business.
"The whole theme in the exchange space is consolidation into bigger entities," he said. "They have to get their costs down because they are getting squeezed to nothing."
Peter Costa, President of Empire Executions Inc., a boutique trading firm on the floor of the NYSE, and a governor with the New York Stock Exchange, said that both companies knew the value of the NYSE brand and would try to preserve it.
"The trading floor, while iconic, may seem to be an anachronism in this high-speed world of electronic this and electronic that, but it still survives because the customers that use the trading floor still see the added value of having some human intervention," Costa said in an email.Costa, also an NYSE stockholder, said that while the premium that ICE was paying was not as high as he would have liked, it was "still fairly generous."