26 Oct 2010

Weldon not worried by ASX merger

5:28 pm on 26 October 2010

The head of the Stock Exchange says New Zealand companies will not miss out on getting noticed internationally just because they are not part of a bigger coalition of exchanges.

NZX chief executive Mark Weldon says claims a merger of the much larger Singapore and Australian exchanges could endanger it are over-dramatic.

The Singapore Stock Exchange has announced it wants to buy the Australian Securities Exchange for $A8.4 billion.

Both say the purchase would create the world's fifth largest stock market and give Australia a much stronger economic foothold in Asia.

The deal marks the first merger between market operators in the Asia-Pacific and is expected to lead to lower costs for both exchanges. It will need approval from Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan and shareholders.

The director of the Shareholders' Association, Jacqui Bensemann, says the move could make New Zealand companies less attractive for overseas investors and tempt larger ones to join overseas exchanges.

But Mr Weldon says local businesses are actually more likely to be noticed on a smaller exchange, where they are not seen as small and irrelevant.

NZ exchange 'left behind'

In 2001, NZX rejected a merger with the Australian stock exchange and since then has been trying to build up services in New Zealand.

Over the past six years, the Australian stockmarket's capitalisation has risen by 54%, while New Zealand's has remained static.

Milford Asset Management executive director Brian Gaynor believes the New Zealand exchange has been left behind.

"We're not really in the same league any more."

Mr Gaynor says New Zealand companies that are listed on the Australian exchange are likely to benefit from its takeover.