ASX marks off first 25 years and joke is all in the timing

It started as a joke. But 25 years on, the Australian Securities Exchange will this Sunday mark the anniversary of when the six state exchanges merged to form the national bourse on April Fools' Day.

It started as a joke. But 25 years on, the Australian Securities Exchange will this Sunday mark the anniversary of when the six state exchanges merged to form the national bourse on April Fools' Day.

Since then around $750 billion has been raised by companies listed on the ASX, 220 companies have continued to be listed under the same name, 800 million cash equity trades have taken place on the exchange and the market capitalisation on the bourse has increased seven-fold to $1.3 trillion.

Among the snippets of trivia provided by the ASX yesterday was the fact that a company only needed a market capitalisation of around $2.5 billion to make it into the top 10 stocks in 1987. The not-so-fun fact was that Fairfax Media (publisher of the Herald) was among one of those original top 10 stocks.

Fairfax's weighting now ranks 88th on the ASX with its market capitalisation around $1.7 billion. ASX spokesman Matthew Gibbs was tight-lipped when asked to explain what significance April Fools' Day held for the exchange.

"What a wonderful punchline it's delivered for Australia's economic success," was all he said.


The ASX was also coy about what festivities it had planned for April Fools' Day. One idea could be for ASX chief executive Elmer Funke "Funkmeister" Kupper to announce a "merger of equals" with the Mongolian Stock Exchange.

Such an April Fools' Day joke on Sunday could actually trick people given operatives from the Ulan Bator exchange were in Sydney yesterday to attend the general assembly of the 19-member Asian and Oceanian Stock Exchanges Federation. It could also be believable given the ASX only last year was playing along the with idea of handing over control to the smaller Singapore Exchange in another "merger of equals".

Another idea could be for Kupper - on drums and vocals - to perform a version of the Bee Gees tune I Started a Joke. "I started a joke, which started the whole world crying, but I didn't see that the joke was on me, oh no," goes the song.


The coal industry is clearly doing God's work. Whitehaven Coal managing director Tony Haggarty and Eureka Capital Partners chairman Roger Massy-Greene, who each made a squillion selling their stakes in Excel Coal to Peabody Energy in 2006, again helped filled the collection tray at yesterday's launch of the Salvation Army's Sydney Red Shield Appeal, which was held at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Massy-Greene, who also chairs the appeal, lauded his old chum who matched his donation at last year's appeal.

"Tony is the most capable businessman and leader to work with," gushed Massy-Greene as he welcomed the $100,000 cheque from his old buddy.

Massy-Greene and his QBE chairwoman wife Belinda Hutchison signed over two $50,000 cheques. One of which was to help fund a Salvo "safe-house" used to help victims of human trafficking.

Haggarty's old housemate from his days digging holes in Broken Hill and now Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford flew up from Melbourne as guest speaker at the launch.

Clifford talked of the importance of being philanthropic and even noted his skills in raising donations as the chairman of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute.

Clifford noted how he managed a $10 million donation from Rupert Murdoch and his family on a trip to New York, after reminding the News Corp boss how the Murdoch family name adorned the entrance to the centre. "It is very interesting to look at the Murdoch family," he mused, noting their support for the institute.

This year's Red Shield Appeal hopes to raise $81.5 million across Australia, of which the Salvos hope to raise $15 million in Sydney.

Among yesterday's attendees was Salvation Army Advisory Board and Fairfax Media chairman Roger Corbett and former Wallabies captain and fund manager Nick Farr-Jones (who was MC). Other business types on the guest list included Transfield Holdings' joint-managing director Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, former CEOs Union (aka Business Council of Australia) president Graham Bradley, former Macquarie managing director Tony Berg, former Fairfax chairman John B. Fairfax, Goodman director Anne Keating and fund manager Robert Maple-Brown.


Ouch. The gloves are off at coal explorer Carabella Resources where 88 per cent of proxy-holders voted yesterday to block the issue of 1 million 25? options to former managing director Mitch Jakeman, who quit last August citing irreconcilable differences with the board.

The options were to be issued once Carabella found measured coal resources of between 25 million to 50 million tonnes, and in November Carabella confirmed there were 41.5 million tonnes at Grosvenor West in central Queensland.

At yesterday's closing price of $1.19 the options would have been worth $940,000. But before Jakeman quit, the shares were trading at $2.10 and the options would have been worth $1.85 million - and there was apparently more upside if resource estimates got higher.

Jakeman told CBD yesterday he was "very disappointed indeed" and the vote showed brokers Helmsec, which underwrote the Carabella float, had "undue influence at the board level".

Jakeman, who is now consulting to County Coal, has been seeing a solicitor ahead of yesterday's shareholder meeting and said: "If they haven't met their continuous disclosure obligations, then we'll see." Watching with interest will be Fairfax Media's largest shareholder, Gina Rinehart, who snapped up 0.74 per cent of Carabella late last year.

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