The federal budget has earmarked $11.7 million in 2014-15 for studies to look into ownership options for a variety of government assets, including the registry function of ASIC.
The immense database provides information about Australia’s 1.9 million companies, business names, and financial service licensees.
In February, ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft foreshadowed the budget announcement, telling the economics references committee the corporate register was “frankly, a technology business”.
The registry would reportedly attract as much as a $1 billion price tag.
It generates about $535 million in reporting fees, earns more than $90 million a year from business names and searches for corporate details, and carries annual costs of about $140 million, according to The Australian
The sale could lead to a restructure of fees that could produce savings for small businesses, which mostly register their details with ASIC, paying an annual fee.
On the other hand large financial services and credit providers may be charged on a user-pays basis for the services.
One of the government agencies hit hardest by the budget is the Australian Taxation Office, which will lose more than 2,300 staff by 2014-15.
A Roy Morgan survey conducted after the budget announcement shows the large majority of Australian consumers (88%) and businesses (74%) overwhelmingly feel the budget will not benefit them.