Reuters headquarters in London
Reuters headquarters in London - 
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KAI RYSSDAL: There's sort of a hidden battle that goes on behind all the buying and selling in the world's markets every day. It's not about the markets, per se. It's about the data. The raw numbers that are generated when trading takes place. Prices and volumes. Yields. . . .

Until today there were three companies fighting that fight. Now there are two. The financial news giant Reuters — of which we're a client — has agreed to a merger with its Canadian rival Thomson. The price tag's a bit more than $17 billion. The deal would put the new company ahead of the current number one, Bloomberg. Marketplace's Lisa Napoli reports.

LISA NAPOLI: Anti-trust regulators are sure to have a field day with this deal, given that a combined Reuters and Thomson adds up to the most powerful financial data service in the world.

The unions that represent Reuters have other concerns. They have to do with a list of ethics principles that governs Reuters.

PETER SZEKELY: The trust principles are designed to keep Reuters independent and to keep us free of bias and to keep us out of the hands of one owner who might tend to influence the organization in one direction or another.

That's Peter Szekely of the Newspaper Guild at Reuters. He says unions are concerned about a $500 million cost reduction that's being bandied about and whether jobs are on the line. The company's not saying how it'll slash the budget. But Szekely isn't reassured.

SZEKELY: This is supposed to be about expanding the company. This is supposed to be about two companies that are supposed to complement each other.

Joe Turow of the Annenberg School of Communication says the value of financial market data is steeped in over 150 years of history.

JOE TUROW: The guy who called himself Reuter used carrier pigeons to make up the difference between breaks in the cable — that is, the telegraph cable — in Europe, with the realization that if you get information to European capitals, and eventually to London, faster than ships can go, then you'd make money.

And in the case of the Reuters union with Thomson, a lot of money will be made. An estimated $11 billion of it.

In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.