2011/02/15

SGX, ASX revamp merger proposal: statement

SYDNEY, February 15, 2011 (AFP) - The Australian and Singapore bourses revamped their merger proposal Tuesday, promising an equal number of directors from each country in a bid to overcome political hurdles threatening the massive deal.

The two exchanges also pledged to maintain operations, assets and key staff in Australia, and to invest in new products. The deal had prompted a backlash in Australia focusing on Singapore's democracy and rights record.

"The changes and commitments announced today, combined with existing regulatory protections, strengthen our belief that the ASX-SGX merger proposal is in the best interest of shareholders and in the national interest of Australia," ASX chairman David Gonski said.

SGX chairman Chew Soon Seng will head the board, which has been cut to 13 and will include five Singaporeans and five Australians. It will also have three international directors, including ASX-SGX CEO-designate Magnus Bocker.

"These commitments demonstrate the SGX's belief in the merits and benefits of the merger, address concerns that have been expressed, and provide further clarity as to how the merged entity will operate in the future," Chew said.

The ASX and SGX announced plans in October for a merger that would create one of the world's largest and most diversified financial trading hubs.

The deal will be reviewed by Australia's securities, foreign investment and competition watchdogs, as well as the central bank, and must be approved by Treasurer Wayne Swan and parliament.