Singapore has announced a wide-ranging package of reforms to coincide with its launch of the Asia-Pacific region's first demutualised and merged stock and futures exchange. This includes liberalising commissions, shortening settlement periods, slashing capital requirements and broadening the permissible scope of brokers' business. The merged Stock Exchange of Singapore and Singapore International Monetary Exchange will be known as Singapore Exchange. 'This is the dawn of a new era,' chairman J.Y. Pillay said. 'Demutualisation and open access provide an enormous opportunity for growth.' Speaking at yesterday's launch party, Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: 'Global capital markets are in such dynamic and continuous flux that nobody can see clearly very far into their future. 'But Singapore Exchange does not lack resources, desire or determination to run with the best.' Australia had hoped to instigate the first stock and futures exchange merger in the region. However, the proposed merger of the Sydney Futures Exchange and Australian Stock Exchange collapsed in September after big brokers voiced disapproval. Hong Kong's stock and futures exchanges are due to merge next month or early February as part of a growing worldwide trend. Among the market reforms announced by Mr Lee yesterday, stock trading curbs on international members will be phased out by January 2001. Presently, international members are only allowed to accept trades valued above S$5 million (about HK$23.1 million) from Singapore clients. Below this limit, they have to put the trade through full members. This limit will be reduced to only $500,000 next month before being removed altogether. The exchange will also admit new members from July next year without any quota. From January 2002 onwards, there will no longer be any restrictions on qualified players who wish to trade on the market. 'Having more trading parties transacting freely with one another and with [Singapore] clients will increase the liquidity and depth of the market,' Mr Lee said. 'It will also help Singapore Exchange to leverage on the forces of technology and globalisation, and make for a more attractive and important capital market.' Commissions on all trades will be fully negotiable from January 2001 and possibly sooner for on-line trades. While settlement cycles would be cut from five days to three, the new exchange hopes to slash it to one day. Minimum paid capital of brokers will be reduced and the possibility of allowing brokers to deal in both stocks and derivatives studied. The Singaporeans have yet to find a suitable world-class chief executive to manage the merged exchange on a day-to-day basis, despite a global search. Authorities have not yet set a date for the two exchanges' electronic trading systems to be combined. Separate trading will continue for the foreseeable future.