Newsmaker: SGX's Bocker belies marathon-man status in ASX deal

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Magnus Bocker runs marathons for pleasure, but as CEO of Singapore Exchange, he is sprinting ahead.

Just 10 months after taking the top job at SGX, the slim, 49-year-old Swede has negotiated an audacious $8.3 billion offer to buy Australian exchange operator ASX Ltd in what will be the second-biggest offshore deal by Singapore company.

Bocker’s short tenure has also seen SGX launch trading in American Depository Receipts of Asian firms and the establishment of Chi-East, a “dark pool” joint venture with Nomura’s Chi-X.

“He is fiercely driven, very ambitious,” says a colleague at SGX, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He is not the kind to sit around.”

Bocker, who joined SGX from NASDAQ OMX in December, has long had a reputation as a deal-maker.

He joined Swedish exchange operator OMX in 1986 and made his mark bringing together seven Nordic bourses to form OMX AB, which he led between 2003 and 2008.

He was subsequently involved in the sale of OMX to NASDAQ in 2008, and took over as CEO of the combined entity.

But after moving to Singapore later that year, Bocker initially said he was looking to drive growth in a slow, more patient manner.

Besides the ADR and dark pool ventures, he has driven investment in technology improvements at SGX, including a $250 million in a new trading system.

“I see myself more as an operations guy than an M&A guy,” he told Reuters earlier this year.

Assuming he receives regulatory approval for the merger with ASX, Bocker will end up as CEO of the fifth-largest listed bourse operator in the world with a market capitalization of $12.3 billion.

“He is instrumental in leading the negotiations...Credit goes to the CEO who always leads a transaction like that, and Magnus has a lot of experience leading (such) transactions,” said SGX President Gan Seow Ann on the deal.

“Magnus has been instrumental in changing the way we’re organized.”

Fluent in English, with only a faint hint of a Scandinavian accent, Bocker is married and has three children. In 2007, he ran the New York City marathon in just over 3 hours 53 minutes.

After a weekend of tough negotiations, Bocker was in Sydney to announce the deal along with ASX chief executive Robert Elstone, who he has known for over 10 years.

Asked in Sydney if he was planning any more mergers after bedding down the ASX deal, he laughed, and said: “If you had been part of this weekend you would not even want to think about that question. It is not on the agenda.”

Additional reporting by Charmian Kok in SINGAPORE and Michael Smith in SYDNEY; Editing by Lincoln Feast