What is the London Stock Exchange?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

The London Stock Exchange (LSE) is a stock exchange entity that can trace its roots back for centuries. Boasting trading from nearly 3000 companies and corporations in 2010, the LSE remains one of the major stock exchanges in the world. The venerable history and staunch resistance to takeover attempts leads many to consider the LSE a model financial institution in the 21st century.

Some 3,000 companies and corporations trade on the London Stock Exchange.
Some 3,000 companies and corporations trade on the London Stock Exchange.

In the 17th century, wealthy merchants began selling shares of stock to one another in an attempt to raise money for ventures, such as trading voyages. These dealings were handled out of coffee shops, the gathering spots of choice for any 17th century gentleman. One entrepreneurial coffee shop owner, Jonathan Casting, began offering a daily list of the exchange prices, thus birthing the first stock exchange in London. The popularity of the stock market surged wildly throughout the centuries, forcing the British government to pass laws that created legal trading guidelines and operating policies. Though headquarters have moved on from Jonathan's Coffee House, the spirited trading and often wild atmosphere of the stock exchange continues to this day in the London Stock Exchange.

A stock exchange is a company that provides facilities and information for people looking to buy, sell, and invest in stocks and market trading. A global company, the London Stock Exchange can provide real-time information on trades and share prices to members all over the world. The LSE offers three types of trading: equities, securities, and derivatives- while also providing the public and members with an organized information system.

In order to trade on the London Stock Exchange, a person or company must become a member. This may include meeting qualifying requirements and paying an annual or monthly fee to use the facilities. Members have access to a variety of services to aid trading, such as specialized trading software and access to LSE financial consultants. Although based in London, the LSE operates a fully computerized trading system that can be accessed and utilized by members anywhere in the world.

Although it remains based in London, in 2007 a merge with an Italian stock exchange called Borsa Italiana made the LSE part of the largest trading network in London. In the early 21st century, the company survived a takeover attempts by the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, or NASDAQ, a competing American company. Despite a tense buildup of takeover attempts, the London Stock Exchange chose to refuse all offers, preferring to stay based entirely in the European market.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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