The member-owned American Stock Exchange said on Thursday it intends to convert into a for-profit corporation and likely move toward an initial public offering — becoming the latest exchange to revamp its structure as investor demand for the sector heats up.

Amex said its board of governors approved a plan to demutualize the exchange and that seat owners would have the opportunity to vote on the demutualization plan, which would convert their seats into shares.

Chief Executive Officer Neal Wolkoff told Reuters that an initial public offering was a "likely outcome" of the company's plan to demutualize.

"Its a likely outcome but not necessarily ordained," Wolkoff said. "You can demutualize and take a private investment but it certainly is the form that you need to be in if you want to make a move to go public."

Wolkoff said there was no timetable set but that he expected that "whatever we do would happen before 2008."

The move comes just weeks after the New York Stock Exchange (NYX) began life as a publicly traded company, ending 213 years as a member-owned club.

Earlier this year, Wolkoff said that he saw possible future scenarios for the Amex such as attracting strategic investment or undertaking an initial public offering.

Amex has had a troubled history. The exchange found it difficult to keep pace with its competitors in the 1990s, was bought by NASD — then the owner of the Nasdaq stock market — in 1998 and put on the block soon afterward.

After NASD failed to find a buyer, Amex's members bought it in January 2005 and Wolkoff took the helm last April.

The Amex is valued at about $180 million, based on the price of its last seat sale, of $210,000. Seats are now being offered at $250,000 according to Amex's Web site.

The demutualization plan would need approval of two-thirds of its 864 members, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and a final nod from its board.

EXCHANGE SECTOR HOT

The exchange sector has been popular among investors of late, as operators follow a trend of demutualizing and going public, with several initial public offerings reaping huge gains for investors in their debuts.

Shares of CBOT Holdings Inc. (BOT), operator of the No. 2 U.S. commodities exchange, surged nearly 50 percent in their market debut last October; Chicago Mercantile Exchange Holdings Inc. (CME), the largest U.S. futures exchange, rose nearly 23 percent from its offer price in 2002.

On March 8, the NYSE dazzled investors in its public debut, with its stock surging nearly 25 percent on their first day of trading.