AUSTRALIA is mounting a spirited campaign to beat Hong Kong and Singapore to the coveted position of Asia Pacific's second major financial centre with a three-pronged plan to seize a bigger chunk of business in the region. Richard Humphry, managing director of the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX), said that while Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore were all actively in the race for the number two position behind Tokyo, Australia had a good chance of winning because it had the best stockmarket in the region. Under its plan, the ASX is proposing to extend trading hours, locate trading terminals in overseas cities and attract more Asian companies to list in Australia to make the exchange more attractive for international investors and issuers. But there is scepticism in some quarters about Australia's ability to win out over Hong Kong and Singapore, both of which have a strong and growing presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Said one analyst: 'It's a very ambitious plan - and that's a nice way of saying that they've got a very small chance. 'It's just not realistic. An exchange only works if the domestic market determines most of the trade.'