The promoters of Indian Commodity Exchange Ltd, (ICEX) the country's third-biggest bourse, may sell about 5 percent stake to an overseas exchange in the next six months, a top official told Reuters on Thursday.

ICEX, whose owners include Indiabulls Financial Services Ltd. and MMTC Ltd. , offers contracts primarily in metals and energy, and was the fourth bourse to begin operations in the country.

"We are looking at divesting about 5 percent stake to a strategic partner... which helps us grow ... we are looking at international exchanges," Ajit Mittal, chief executive officer of ICEX, told Reuters in an interview.

The divestment process may start after six months, he added.

Under Indian rules, foreign companies, funds and exchanges are allowed to hold up to 49 percent in a local commodity exchange, though single holdings are capped at 5 percent.

International bourses NYSE Euronext and IntercontinentalExchange hold five percent each in rivals Multi-Commodity Exchange (MCX) and National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) respectively.

ICEX currently has a daily turnover of 15-20 billion rupees, Mittal said. That compares with about 200 billion a day for MCX and about 35 billion for NCDEX.

Indiabulls owns 40 percent in ICEX, while MMTC holds 26 percent. Indian Potash Ltd has a 10 percent stake and KRIBHCO and IDFC have 5 percent each in the bourse.

ICEX draws most of its volumes from gold futures and has successfully executed delivery of 185 kg of the yellow metal in the recently concluded contract. Mittal said he expects similar delivery based trade in silver also.

ICEX is also planning to launch zinc, nickel and mustard seed futures soon, he said.

Turnover at India's 23 commodity bourses, including four operating at the national level, grew from 1.29 trillion rupees in 2003/04 to 52.49 trillion rupees in 2008/09.

Turnover has risen 49.84 percent to 62.34 trillion rupees in the first ten months of fiscal 2009/10.


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