Founded in 1771, the Vienna Stock Exchange (Wiener Börse) is one of the oldest stock exchanges in the world. During its early years, the exchange primarily served as a marketplace for trading bonds, bills of exchange and foreign currencies. In 1818, equity shares began trading with the first company listed being the Austrian National Bank.
Due to the political and economic significance of the Habsburg monarchy at the time, the Wiener Börse soon gained international recognition. An economic boom brought a wave of highly speculative companies to the exchange. The prosperity ended abruptly with the stock market crash of May 1873. About 90% of all listed companies disappeared from the price list. It took decades for the stock exchange to recover.
The exchange was closed during World War I until the end of 1919. Once it restarted, the Wiener Börse experienced a strong revival and boom that continued until the end of March 1924. Stock prices sluggishly recovered in the following years. The consequences of the global economic crisis and the collapse of banks was very detrimental to exchange trading in these years, causing not only stock prices but also the number of traders to decline steeply.
With the incorporation of Austria into the Deutsche Reich in 1938, the Wiener Börse lost its independence and was subjected to German exchange law. Stock market trading continued on a very limited basis until shortly before the end of World War II, when it closed. In 1948, the stock exchange reopened and in July 1949, the first government bond (reconstruction bond) of the Second Republic was issued.
During the period following the war, the stock market thinned out after the nationalization of some branches of industry. The bond market, by contrast, recovered after the currency reform in 1952. However, an uptrend in the stock market didn't become noticeable until the 1960s but stock trading continued to lag behind bonds for many years. In 1981, two Austrian stocks were newly listed on the exchange after 21 years without any new issues.
Finally, in 1985, a major turnaround occurred after an American analyst triggered a stock market boom by pointing out the enormous potential of the Austrian capital market. After around two decades of stagnating stock prices, an upswing in prices set in that averaged 130%. Trading volumes increased by sixfold.
In December 1997, the Wiener Börse was merged with the Austrian Futures and Options Exchange (ÖTOB) to form the new exchange operating company, Wiener Börse AG. The stock market was boosted substantially by the privatization of former state-owned industrial companies in the 1990s. Austrian investors gradually began to notice the opportunities of investing in stocks. In 1990, stock ownership among the Austrian population was only one percent but by 1997, ownership had risen to four percent. By the spring of 2006, six percent of Austrians owned stocks.
In June 2008, the Vienna Stock Exchange acquired a majority stake of 81.01% in the Ljubljana Stock Exchange which was followed up in December with the acquisition of a 92.7% stake in the Prague Stock Exchange. This acquisition was the third major position by the Vienna Stock Exchange in a Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) exchange. Jointly with Oesterreichische Kontrollbank, the Vienna Stock Exchange owns 68.8% of the Budapest Stock Exchange. In addition, the Vienna Stock Exchange has entered into numerous cooperation agreements with regional exchanges, which includes Bucharest, Sarajevo and Banja Luka.
With the full liberalization of the Austrian electricity market on October 1, 2001, the framework was in place for the establishment of an electricity exchange. In March 2002, the Energy Exchange Austria (EXAA) starting trading in electricity.
The EXAA has become an established European market for energy products. It was launched with 12 market participants and at present, EXAA spot trading has grown to include more than 77 electricity traders from 17 countries.