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Information, Please

Recent mergers among financial information services are bringing more-comprehensive data to the consumer.

1May

Bridge Information Systems Inc. recently acquired Dow Jones Markets from Dow Jones & Co., following its 1995 acquisition of Knight- Ridder Financial. The buy places Bridge (www.bridge.com) in second place among the three leading online financial information vendors, behind Reuters Group Plc (www.reuters.com) but ahead of Bloomberg L.P. (www.bloomberg.com).


The Bridge acquisition leaves consumers with three strong services--and a dizzying array of financial information, including real-time data on stocks, bonds, commercial paper, foreign currencies, and other investment vehicles. Which one you decide to choose depends, of course, on your needs.



SPECIALIZATIONS

Bloomberg is the oldest and most venerable of the three top financial data providers. Its greatest strengths are its massive amounts of historical data, plus a set of analysis tools to help clients make investment decisions. In addition, there is some professional pride in subscribing to Bloomberg, according to Andrew Delaney, an analyst for market research firm Waters Information Services. "If I have a Bloomberg Terminal, then I have a lot of prestige," he says.


However, the Bloomberg Terminal is quickly becoming obsolete. Today, most new orders are for The Bloomberg Open system, software that runs on ordinary computers and workstations.


To be sure, there are enough differences in the presentation and data provided by the three services that many companies subscribe to two or even all three. For example, chemicals and machinery manufacturer FMC Corp. has six Bloomberg terminals and two computers running Reuters 3000. "We use the Bloomberg terminals mainly for equity and fixed-income information," says Ruud Roggekamp, assistant treasurer, "and we use the Reuters terminals for foreign exchange data."


Each service has its own specialization within the financial arena. "Reuters is U.K.- based, and for-eign exchange and European international equities are its main strengths," says Delaney. On the other hand, by acquiring Dow Jones Markets (now called Bridge Telerate), Bridge offers exclusive access to data from Canter Fitzgerald Securities, "the most valuable content set if you want U.S. government bond data," says Delaney.


Ford Motor Credit Co. uses all three systems. The company issues about $4 billion in commercial paper every business day, or about $75 billion­to­ $100 billion every month. Anyone who purchases the Dearborn, Mich., firm's commercial paper is probably a subscriber to at least one of the services, so the company uses the three systems as a marketing vehicle. "For a long time, we've used the systems as a method to post interest rates," says Craig Dukes, regional financial sales manager.


Dukes, however, is going beyond simply posting interest rates. "About a year and a half ago, Bloomberg launched an online trading feature, and it's worked out very well," he says. Reuters and Bridge Telerate have indicated they're working on electronic trading on their systems, too.



MODULAR PRICING

All three companies charge about the same for their services. The Bloomberg Open system costs $1,640 per month for the first terminal and $1,225 for each additional one. Reuters charges $1,200 per month for its top-of-the- line Reuters 3000 service. Bridge hasn't made a final decision on Bridge Telerate pricing.


While Bloomberg has always been a one-price system, Reuters and Bridge will sell you packages containing limited amounts of data, starting as low as $100 per month. One of the newest packages is Reuters MarketClip, a financial database that is transmitted to some wireless, hand-held computers (either a 3Com PalmPilot or a Hewlett-Packard 360LX). For $150 per month, an investor can get the latest market quotes from any place at any time.


Wireless financial data is being targeted mostly to "hyperactive traders," according to John Robb, an analyst with Boston-based Gomez Advisors. "They can get quotes all day long, even when they're away from their PCs."

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