April 21 (Reuters) - Nasdaq Inc (NDAQ.O) reported a better-than-expected first-quarter profit on Wednesday, boosted by strength in its trading business against a backdrop of high market volatility and a surge in initial public offerings.
The exchange operator posted adjusted net income of $1.96 per share for the quarter, versus estimates of $1.74 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
A new cohort of retail investors armed with mobile trading apps helped spark a broad surge in trading volumes in the quarter, piling into heavily shorted stocks like GameStop Corp (GME.N) and AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC.N), to punish hedge funds that bet against them.
That drove a 20% jump in revenue at Nasdaq's market services unit, its biggest business, to $338 million.
In listings, Nasdaq said 196 special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) debuted on its exchange in the quarter, along with 79 operating companies, including Bumble (BMBL.O), Affirm (AFRM.O) and Playtika .
More recently, cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global (COIN.O) started trading on Nasdaq, briefly becoming a $100-billion company, making it more valuable than Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange owner Intercontinental Exchange (ICE.N) combined.
Nasdaq provides market surveillance tools and technology to cryptocurrency exchanges. It also compiles a cryptocurrency index that it partnered with Brazilian asset manager Hashdex to create an exchange-traded fund, which accredited non-U.S. investors can buy and sell on the Bermuda Stock Exchange.
"We're hoping with a second partner to kind of hopefully bring that into the U.S. in coming months," Nasdaq Chief Executive Officer Adena Friedman said on a call with analysts.
Revenue from the New York-based company's investment intelligence segment, which includes indexes, was up 22% from a year earlier at $258 million, as investors poured into products related to the company's tech-heavy indexes. Indexing revenues were up 40% to $29 million year-over-year.
Excluding transaction-based expenses, net revenue surged 21% to $851 million.
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