By Huw Jones
LONDON (Reuters) - Euronext's <ENX.PA> Chief Executive Stephane Boujnah said rumours the pan-European exchange was in talks with Spanish peer BME <BME.MC> or another European exchange were "baseless".
Bloomberg reported that Euronext - which operates stock markets in France, Portugal, Ireland, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands - has been assessing potential acquisition targets, including the Madrid and Milan exchanges.
It recently beat off a challenge from Nasdaq to buy the Oslo exchange.
"Recent market rumours... are unfounded and there is no dialogue with the two companies mentioned, nor with any exchange in Europe, and also no offer has been made to any board or to any shareholders," Boujnah told a media call on Euronext's third quarter results.
The operator reported a 26% rise in net profit, helped by its acquisition of Oslo Bors, and reiterated it would pursue more potential acquisitions.
Boujnah said Euronext had clearly analysed the situations of single country exchanges.
"But there is a big difference between monitoring, analysing, looking at things as we have been doing for the past five years and the type of comment that was published in the press that has no substance whatsoever."
Euronext's priority remains to "diversify the topline" when opportunities arise, he said.
Attempts at exchange mergers, most recently between the London Stock Exchange and Deutsche Boerse, have collapsed in the face of competition and political opposition. The LSE is now focusing on acquiring data and analytics company Refinitiv instead.
Madrid is among the smallest of Europe's exchanges with a market capitalisation of 2.1 billion euros, less than half of Euronext's 5.2 billion euros.
A combination of the two would lag far behind Europe's two biggest exchanges: Deutsche Boerse has a market capitalisation of 26 billion euros, and the LSE at 24.3 billion pounds ($31.15 billion), effectively putting them out of Euronext's financial reach.
Spanish investment firm Alantra said there were limited investment alternatives in Europe and that BME traded at a discount to its peers.
"We think BME has no future as a standalone company in an increasingly consolidated sector, and thus, the best it can do for its shareholders is sell itself at a good price," Alantra said.
But a tie-up would not be plain sailing, an industry official said.
"The politics would be complex as savings would have to come from migrating trading to one platform, and Paris or Madrid would have to lose jobs," the official said.
(Additional reporting by Jesus Aguado in Madrid; editing by Susan Fenton and John Stonestreet)