Key HKEX executive behind failed bid to buy LSE steps down, seconded to UK unit London Metal Exchange

Enoch Yiu

James Fok, a key Executive behind bourse operator Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing’s surprise US$38.8 billion bid to buy the London Stock Exchange in September, has stepped down as head of group strategy and has been seconded to British unit London Metal Exchange.

The transfer, confirmed by a spokesman on Friday, is being viewed as the first major staff movement following the failed bid, which would have led to the largest ever merger between two exchanges. He has been succeeded by Till Rosar, a former senior vice-president.

“James Fok has joined the London Metal Exchange as part of an internal secondment. Till Rosar has been appointed HKEX’s head of group strategy,” the spokesman said without providing further details.

Two separate sources at the bourse operator said Fok’s transfer was not related to the failed LSE bid. “It is just the normal career development of a senior staff member in an international organisation,” one of them said. Fok had not responded to an email for comment by the time of publishing.

An investment banker with Citi Group as well as other big lenders before he joined HKEX, Fok started as chief of staff in 2012 and became the bourse operator’s head of group strategy in 2016.

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Last year, he joined the company’s 16-member management committee, its senior most decision-making body reporting to Charles Li Xiaojia, HKEX’s chief executive. As of Friday, Fok was no longer listed among its members on the company’s websites, but neither was Rosar.

Fok has been involved in a number of deals and projects at HKEX, including the 2012 acquisition of LME, to which he has now been seconded, as well as the launch of the Shanghai and Hong Kong Stock Connect in 2014.

“The replacement of senior staff members at HKEX might be related to the fact that the bourse operator wants to strengthen its overseas business in Britain. [Fok’s] successor as head of group strategy [, Rosar] is also a mergers and acquisitions expert, which might also pave the way for other acquisitions by HKEX,” said Tom Chan Pak-lam, chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Securities Dealers.

Hong Kong bourse drops bid to buy London exchange

Rosar worked at Sydney-based Australian Securities Exchange from 2012 to April 2016, and then moved to Australian lender and financial services company Westpac Banking Corporation as head of

group strategy and M&A, a post he held until June 2018. He joined HKEX the following month as senior vice-president of group strategy, and also became head of investor relations six months ago.

The bourse operator’s LSE bid was short-lived and was rejected two days after the HKEX went public with its offer. HKEX officially withdrew the bid in October and cannot make another offer within six months, according to UK takeover rules.

The LSE board said it preferred the Shanghai Stock Exchange as a partner, questioning the Hong Kong company’s role as a gateway to mainland China amid the city’s anti-government protests. This week, China ironically suspended the Shanghai-London Stock Connect because of political tensions arising out of London’s stance on the Hong Kong protests. The stock link started in June last year, was used by the LSE to illustrate its preference for Shanghai over Hong Kong.

HKEX makes US$36.6 billion surprise bid to take over LSE

Li, the HKEX’s CEO, has indicated the company will continue to seek other mergers and acquisitions to expand its business.

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