11 Apr 2011

Intense debate over ASX - Singapore verdict

7:03 am on 11 April 2011

The Australian government's blocking of a bid by Singapore to take over the Australian Securities Exchange has triggered an intense debate over foreign ownership.

Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan announced on Friday morning that the deal was not in the national interest.

He said the deal would have damaged Australia's economic and regulatory standing and that jobs would have moved offshore to Singapore.

The ABC reports that Mr Swan said the deal would make Australia's financial services sector a subsidiary of Singapore.

Radio New Zealand's Sydney correspondent reports that depending on whom you talk to - the Treasurer's decision was either a short-sighted and nationalistic decision or a rational response to a dud deal.

According to the critics, it was a political decision that leaves the ASX hopelessly adrift in a world where exchanges are getting bigger through mergers to stay alive.

According to the defenders, the merger never added up.

Singapore is not the financial gateway to Asia it pretends to be: the state's 24% holding in its exchange made the bid a security risk and there are more logical partners for Australia.

Radio New Zealand's correspondent says the ASX is now going to have to find another dance partner.

With competition growing in the securities exchange industry from new electronic players, the ASX needs global scale to survive.


Other major exchanges are merging - like London with Toronto and the New York with Frankfurt.

The argument goes that unless Australia can overcome the national interest concerns, it will be left behind in this wave of consolidation.

A favoured option would be Hong Kong, which is a much more liquid market than Singapore and a gateway to China.

Another would be London. This makes sense as a three-way deal between Canada, Britain and Australia would cover all time zones.

A third option is a possible joint venture with Singapore, thus maintaining ownership of the ASX in Australia.