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Australia’s main share market flags more delays for key blockchain project

Australia’s major stock exchange says a key technology upgrade initially scheduled to go live a year ago will now be delayed to the second half of 2023.

A month after telling investors its clearing house electronic subregister system (CHESS) replacement project was on track for an April 2023 launch, ASX Ltd on Monday flagged its new data warehouse now faced several more months of delays.

The ASX uses CHESS to keep track of investors’ holdings and personal details.

The beleaguered $250m replacement project – designed to usurp a system that has been used for more than 25 years – was initially meant to be ready by April 2021.

Covid-19 setbacks and consultation in 2020 eventually saw pushed this date back to April 2023.

Now it won’t be until July or August this year before accreditation schedules can begin.

“ASX advises that there is a strong likelihood of delay to the go-live date,” group executive Tim Hogben said in an update on Monday.

ASX Ltd chief executive Dominic Stevens in early February said the company was on track to deliver the project before the latest setback.

This time, the market operator blamed Digital Asset, the company developing what will be the world’s first industrial-scale use of blockchain technology.

“CHESS replacement is an ongoing process with the industry, and industry engagement will be even more important as we move into the CHESS user testing environment and operational readiness activities, and as we agree an approach that ensures utmost confidence in a safe, secure and performant system at go-live,” Mr Hogben said.

“We recognise the impact these changes will have on our customers’ programming activities and apologise for the inconvenience.”

This latest delay comes after a slew of technology issues and outages at ASX Ltd over the past few years.

Two weeks ago the $15.5bn company apologised to investors after a hardware fault halted trading for various futures and options products ahead of key employment data.

Regulators put the ASX on notice in November 2020 when a major software upgrade caused a meltdown and prevented people from buying and selling shares for nearly a full day.

The ASX enjoys somewhat of a monopoly in Australia but there are rivals, including the smaller National Stock Exchange (NSX) and Chi-X Australia.

ASX Ltd, which is itself listed on the stock market it operates, was trading down 0.5 per cent at $80.07 in afternoon trade on Monday as the wider technology sector slipped lower.

The company has lost about 15 per cent of its value since hitting a share price high of $95.83 late in 2021.

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