Today saw the release of the findings from the government’s review of the London Stock Exchange’s listing rules, chaired by Lord Hill which was aimed at making it easier for the world’s most innovative and successful firms to list and grow in the UK.

Shares reported on the views of key industry players who were consulted as part of the review process here.

MODERNISING THE RULES

The overriding message from the review is that the UK had fallen behind other jurisdictions, putting the UK at a competitive disadvantage. There is genuine concern that existing rules are hobbling London ability to attract fast-growing, technology and science-based companies in particular.

Lord Hill commented, ‘all the recommendations are consistent with existing practices in other well-regulated financial centres in the USA, Asia and Europe.’

The review recommended that the Chancellor Rishi Sunak should produce an annual report to Parliament on the state of City of London and its competitive position.

The dual listing rules on the premium segment of the exchange should be modernised, giving directors and founders enhanced voting rights on certain decisions while safeguarding high corporate governance standards.

Free-float (the percentage of shares in public hands) should be reduced from a minimum 25% to 15% and companies should be allowed to present alternative measures to demonstrate adequate liquidity.

A rebranding of the exchange’s standard segment should be undertaken to increase its attractiveness to companies of all types and size.

A STEP TOO FAR?

One of the more controversial recommendations involves liberalising the rules around special purpose acquisition companies (SPACS).

AJ Bell Investment Director Russ Mould commented, ‘SPAC deals may be booming in the USA right now, but fear of missing out (FOMO) is just about the worst possible reason for making any investment decision. To let this emotion drive a change in the rules with regards to SPACs in particular would potentially expose investors to greater danger and the risk of portfolio losses.’

Despite this caveat, overall there appears to be support for most of the recommendations.

Peter Harrison, chief executive of investment manager Schroders (SDR) said’ There is a balance to be struck between ensuring the highest standard of governance and supporting the growth of companies and the UK economy. Lord Hill’s review achieves that balance.’

David Schwimmer, Chief Executive Officer of the LSE commented, ‘Continuing to evolve the UK listings regime is key to providing flexibility for companies who want to list in London while maintaining high standards of corporate governance.’

It is now up to the government to set out the next steps after examining Lord Hill’s findings and consulting with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

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Issue Date: 03 Mar 2021