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ASX Hires Goat-Farming Ex-Ministerial Aide to Sell Takeover Bid

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- ASX Ltd. has hired a former adviser to Tony Abbott, Australia’s parliamentary opposition leader, to lobby lawmakers in support of its takeover by Singapore Exchange Ltd., three people familiar with the situation said.

David Gazard will seek to persuade lawmakers -- including one who is his brother-in-law -- that the $7.9 billion bid doesn’t hurt Australia’s national interests, according to the people, who didn’t want to be named because Gazard’s appointment is private. Gazard, who owns a goat farm near the nation’s capital, Canberra, also worked as an adviser to former Prime Minister John Howard and his Treasurer, Peter Costello.

“We’re engaging with all stakeholders, including decision makers in Canberra, and deploying resources to make sure we brief the right people,” ASX’s spokesman Matthew Gibbs said in a telephone interview from Sydney yesterday. Gibbs would not confirm Gazard’s hire. The focus of ASX, which operates Australia’s main bourse, is on submitting the merger proposal to the Foreign Investment Review Board, he said.

Singapore Exchange, part owned by the city-state’s government, requires the support of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s minority Labor government, which hasn’t decided its stance, and at least four other legislators in the lower house of parliament, to approve the cash-and-shares deal. The bid was worth A$45.98 a share, or A$8.05 billion ($7.9 billion), at the close of share trading in Singapore yesterday.

Proposed Merger

Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey has cited national-interest concerns over the agreement, while Australian Greens member Adam Bandt, the National Party’s Tony Crook and independents Andrew Wilkie and Bob Katter have all said they’re opposed to the proposed merger of Asia’s fifth- and eighth-largest bourses.

In addition to FIRB approval, Singapore Exchange’s bid faces scrutiny from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, Reserve Bank of Australia, and Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the nation’s financial-markets regulator, as well as the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

One of the Gazard’s tasks will be to convince independents including Katter, Wilkie, Tony Windsor, and Rob Oakeshott of the merits of the takeover. Oakeshott, who has said he will announce his position after briefings, is Gazard’s brother-in-law.

Gazard, who failed in a bid to win a seat in parliament as a Liberal Party of Australia candidate for Eden-Monaro in the Aug. 21 federal election, wouldn’t comment on his role when contacted. The lobbyist, who advised the opposition’s Abbott while he was health minister, raises goats on the farm where he lives, according to an article Gazard wrote in The Punch online magazine.

Crime Reporter

Gazard advised Howard, Costello and Abbott while a coalition of the Liberal and National parties was in power from 1996 to 2007. Afterwards, he set up a public relations company, which is listed on the Australian Government Register of Lobbyists as David Gazard & Associates.

Gazard, 45, also worked as a crime reporter in Canada, according to the electioncandidates.com.au website. He is married with three children, according to a candidate biography on the Liberal Party’s website.

ASX’s Chief Executive Robert Elstone said told reporters when announcing the takeover last month that the merger with SGX was in the interests of both countries, and that the companies were confident of winning regulators’ approval.

The takeover won’t compromise market regulation, Malcolm Starr, ASX’s head of regulatory policy said last week in response to a report in the Age newspaper that the country’s Financial Services Council is concerned the deal may reduce the fairness of listing rules.

Parliamentary Approval

SGX’s takeover will struggle to win parliamentary approval unless the deal is supported by Australia’s two main political parties, JPMorgan Chase & Co. analysts said in a research note dated today.

SGX’s Chief Executive Officer Magnus Bocker faced a revolt from his own shareholders on Oct. 25 when he unveiled the agreement to acquire ASX at twice the average premium for financial services acquisitions in the past year.

Rising competition from electronic venues and investor demands to cut trading costs have driven acquisitions among global exchanges since January 2007, including Nasdaq Stock Market Inc.’s takeover of OMX AB, which Bocker helped arrange as the Stockholm-based operator’s CEO.

To contact the reporters on this story: Gemma Daley in Canberra at gdaley@bloomberg.net Shani Raja in Sydney at sraja4@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Gentle at ngentle2@bloomberg.net.

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