The High Court has approved the terms of a merger between the stock exchange and futures exchanges, marking another step forward for the Government's proposed market reforms. The decision yesterday followed a landmark vote last month which saw nearly all stock and futures brokers support the merger. The next step was for legislators to approve the enabling legislation, Acting Secretary for Financial Services Rebecca Lai Ko Wing-yee told a Legislative Council meeting. The Government would submit the proposed legislation to Legco as soon as possible and hoped it could be passed within the next few months, she said. The legislation would cover a range of issues related to the new exchange, which will be created by merging the stock and futures exchanges and their three associated clearing houses into a new entity to be known as Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEC). Issues included the shareholding structure of the new exchange and the division of regulatory functions with the Securities and Futures Commission, Mrs Lai said. The conditions of appointments and removal of the chairman and senior executives of the HKEC would also be included in the legislation. The fee structure of the new exchange would also be covered. HKEC chairman Charles Lee Yeh-kwong expected the new exchange to be set up in January or early February next year, depending on when approval was obtained. He said an open recruitment campaign for a chief executive officer and chief operating officer for HKEC had started.