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Clutz and Freehills on ASX merger

Clutz and Freehills on ASX merger

Clayton Utz and Freehills are sitting on opposite sides of the table on the proposed $8.4 billion takeover of the Australian Securities Exchange by the Singapore Stock Exchange.Freehills is…

Clayton Utz and Freehills are sitting on opposite sides of the table on the proposed $8.4 billion takeover of the Australian Securities Exchange by the Singapore Stock Exchange.

Freehills is acting for the ASX, with the Sydney based M&A, securities law and corporate partner Fiona Gardiner-Hill leading the team. Gardiner-Hill has had extensive dealings with both the ASX and the corporate regulator, ASIC previously, and counts Morgan Stanley and the Seven Network amongst her client base.

Clayton Utz has landed the role as the Australian advisers to the Singapore Exchange (SGX). National M&A head Rod Halstead and Sydney based corporate partner Karen Evans-Cullen are leading the firm's team on this transaction. Halstead recently acted for AMP on its proposed merger with AXA.

Allen & Gledhill is the Singaporean adviser to the SGX.

The proposed takeover of the ASX by a foreign entity has raised eyebrows from within the financial market and from regulatory authorities.

Analysts have questioned the value of the deal to ASX shareholders, with the possibility that high dividend payouts and franking credits will be forfeited under the deal.

Treasurer Wayne Swan is also expected to be called upon to give the final green light to see the takeover reach its completion.

The ASX has rules in place that limit the portion that any shareholder can own in the entity to a maximum of 15 per cent. Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has already applied the political blowtorch to the friendly takeover, by asking for Swan to comment publicly on whether he thinks the deal is in the national interest.

The government has previously been supportive of the ASX being open to competition, with the Chi-X Group being given preliminary approval to set-up its own exchange, which is earmarked to commence trading in March 2011.

It is thought that the current chief executive of the Singapore Exchange, Magnus Bocker, would head the new entity, with ASX chairman, David Gonski, to be deputy chairman.

The deal would be the first merger between two market operators in the Asia-Pacific, and would seek to challenge the strength of major regional exchange markets, such as the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Currently, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange has a daily turnover close to $10 billion, while the combined total of the Australian and Singapore Exchanges is just over $6.5 million.

The Australian Securities Exchange was formed after the Australian Stock Exchange merged with the Sydney Futures Exchange in July 2006.

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