CME Group explores sales of Kansas City, New York buildings

Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:17pm EDT

* Kansas City grain exchange building to be put up for sale

* CME may sell NYMEX building, lease back space

* Sales reflect shift toward electronic trading

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO, March 20 (Reuters) - CME Group Inc said it plans to sell the building that houses its grain exchange in Kansas City, Missouri, and may also sell the building which houses its energy trading floor in New York.

The sales reflect the shift to electronic trading that has made it less attractive for exchange operators to own real estate for traditional open-outcry pits.

CME, the largest U.S. futures exchange operator, last year sold most of its historic Chicago Board of Trade building to a consortium of real-estate companies for $151.5 million and leased back space that is uses, including trading pits for agricultural products.

CME said at the time it wanted to focus on running its exchanges, rather than managing real estate.

CME, which gained ownership of most of the Kansas City Board of Trade building when it purchased the grain exchange for $126 million last year, is recruiting a real estate broker, spokeswoman Laurie Bischel said.

A spokeswoman for minority owner Highwood Properties Inc declined to comment.

CME may also sell the building that houses the New York Mercantile Exchange and lease back space, Bischel said.

The exchange operator said in February that it will move Kansas City's open-outcry wheat pits to Chicago on July 1 and will operate an electronic trading center on the former KCBT floor until the end of September, from which Kansas City-based traders will be able to execute trades on CME's electronic trading platform.

Kansas City's main pit, for hard red winter wheat futures, could comfortably fit several dozen traders. In recent years, though, it has been largely empty as many traders prefer to do their business on computer screens set up on desktops scattered around the trading floor.

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