Singapore Exchange chief defends ASX merger, AFP investigates WikiLeaks: Economy Roundup

Singapore Exchange chief executive Magnus Bocker has said the suggestion of a tie-up with the ASX being a “merger of losers” is false, instead calling the $8.4 billion offer is a “revenue play”.

He also says that trading infrastructure will likely remain in Sydney if the deal goes ahead.

“I think the economy of Australia is unrivalled nearly over the last 20 years and therefore Sydney is a fantastically successful financial centre for Australia, but how do we be labelled?” he told Business Spectator this morning.

“In what way do we believe that will change over time? Will Australia continue to succeed? Will investors, as well as companies, be over-exposed?”

Meanwhile, the federal Government has said the Australian Federal Police will decide whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has broken any local laws.

“We should allow the AFP to fully investigate the matter as they are doing,” justice minister Brendan O’Connor told ABC Radio. “After that has been processed then the law and justice matters will take their course,” he added.

This comes after Greens leader Bob Brown has said the Government should be able to fully guarantee Assange’s passport.

“He’s obviously under intense pressure for simply disseminating documents that any self-respecting newspaper, including The Times of London and The Australian, would print if they were given access to those documents,” he said.

Lend Lease has said it will launch a new property fund in Britain, with the $300 million Infrastructure Fund set to be launched with PGGM Vermogensbeheer B.V. to set up social infrastructure.

“The fund will benefit from our integrated model, including our established asset management and facilities management capabilities and there is the ability to grow the investment with similar assets from our pipeline,” chief executive Steve McCann said in a statement.

“The transaction also completes our targeted capital recycling of PPP equity positions in the UK and delivers an attractive return on that equity.”

FKP Property Group has now entered a trading halt, with the company signalling that it will launch a convertible securities issue. The company said it will resume trading before December 14.

Shares flat after mixed overseas leads

The Australian sharemarket has opened flat this morning following a weak result from overseas overnight, with ongoing pessimism due to debt problems in Europe.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down six points or 0.14% to 4734.5 at 12.10 AEST, while the Australian dollar maintained its position at US98c.

AMP shares gained 0.4% to $5.31, while Commonwealth Bank grew 0.5% to $50.47. Westpac dropped 0.8% to $22.46 as NAB fell 0.7% to $24.16.

MasterCard has announced that it has acquired the Card Program Management operations of Travelex for $US458 million in cash.

MasterCard said in a statement the transaction will allow the company to manage and deliver consumer and corporate prepaid travel cards to various business partners.

“As part of the transaction, MasterCard and Travelex signed a long-term contract whereby MasterCard will provide program management services for the Travelex Cash Passport prepaid card sold through Travelex stores and online channels,” the company said in a statement.

“The acquisition of Travelex’s CPM operations underscores MasterCard’s commitment to the global prepaid business, which remains a key strategic focus for us,” MasterCard president and chief executive Ajay Banga added.

In Lexembourg, eBay has been found to not be liable for trademark infringements conducted by users in its site.

European Court of Justice advocate general Niilo Jaaskinen said in a non-binding opinion that if the company was notified of the infringement of a trademark, it could be held liable.

“The use of the disputed trademarks as keywords by eBay does not necessarily result in misleading the consumers as to the origin of the goods offered,” the advocate general found in his written opinion.

“In cases where the ad itself is not misleading as to the nature of the advertising internet marketplace operator, the function of the trademark of indicating the origin of the product is not likely to be jeopardised.”

US jobless claims fall more than expected

New claims for jobless benefits fell more than expected last week with the four-week average at a two-year low, the Labor Department said in its latest report. Initial claims fell 17,000 to 421,000, below expectations of a drop to just 425,000.

“It’s another report that suggests the monthly employment numbers that we got last week probably understated the position in jobs, and it’s another number that suggests we’re going to get some upside surprises in economic activity,” Commonfund chief economist Michael Strauss said in a statement.

The figures boosted the mood on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by only two points, or 0.02% to 11,370.06.

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