Singapore bourse to boost freight derivatives with pursuit of Baltic Exchange

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore Exchange's (SGX) SGXL.SI bid to buy London's Baltic Exchange is aimed at burnishing its derivatives credentials among ship brokers and commodity merchants, fitting hand in glove with its efforts to develop Asian pricing benchmarks for bulk commodities.

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The bourse has struggled in recent years, losing out to Hong Kong as the main destination for large IPOs in the region and the proposed acquisition is one of several efforts by new CEO Loh Boon Chye to revive its fortunes.

Despite a deep rout in global commodities markets, the long-term market for freight derivatives and clearing holds promise, sources familiar with SGX’s strategy said, adding that it is keen to increase the appeal of its Asian pricing benchmarks for commodities such as iron ore, liquefied natural gas and coking coal.

“This will give SGX deeper coverage with many large clients with whom they already deal at some level,” said one of the sources.

The sources declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak to the media on the matter. SGX declined to comment.

Singapore is the world’s second-busiest container port with over 130 international shipping groups based in the city-state and the government has positioned the sector as a key industry. And despite recent economic wobbles, long-term demand for bulk materials like iron ore and coal is expected to be strong as India, Indonesia and Central Asia follow China in targeting infrastructure development.

As such, gaining control of the Baltic, which is seeking to boost membership in Asia, would be a natural step for SGX.

The Baltic is owned by around 380 shareholders, many from the shipping industry. It produces daily benchmark rates and indices used globally to trade and settle freight contracts as well as data used in freight derivatives.

“Instead of trying to be a regional or global market, just be a sector-specific market where you seem to be able to price better, rather than try and be a competitor to Hong Kong” said Kevin Scully, executive chairman of equities research firm NRA Capital.

In addition to the bid for the Baltic, SGX’s Loh, who is just seven months in the job, is expanding the bourse’s non-freight derivatives offerings, has launched a bond trading platform and is conducting a supervisory crackdown on errant firms.The Baltic Exchange said last month it had received a number of “exploratory approaches” after SGX confirmed it was seeking to buy the business which has been the hub of the global shipping market for centuries. Sources had previously pegged the Baltic’s valuation at just below $120 million.

The SGX is valued at $5.9 billion. The Baltic has previously rebuffed approaches from the London Metal Exchange.

Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Additional reporting by Gavin Maguire; Editing by Edwina Gibbs