LONDON - The number of online trading accounts in Europe will grow from 1.85 million at the end of 1999, to 4.4 million by yearend, and to 16.8 million by 2003, said International Data Corp.

"Europe is now in the stage of rapid online trading account growth," said Luisa Bordoni, vice president of IDC's European vertical market research.

Online trading activity in Sweden is growing fast, particularly among retail investors. More than 10 brokerages in Sweden offer online trading. Germany is expected to see faster growth than elsewhere in Europe. The United Kingdom has the third-largest online financial trading market in Europe.

"Companies that are first off the block can gain significant market share at this stage of rapid market growth, and the biggest challenge could well come from start-ups rather than from traditional institutions," Ms. Bordoni said.

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