Trying to grow our own Apples, Googles and Amazons

The LSE's new high growth segment.

With the launch of the London Stock Exchange’s High Growth Segment set for March, it appears that UK technology companies of all sizes will have a domestic listing to suit their needs. The High Growth Segment has been launched to appeal to technology and other growth companies that want to list in London but may not wish to apply for a Premium Listing (be it for eligibility or regulatory reasons) but would like an alternative to AIM, the London Stock Exchange’s junior market..

There is a popular belief that the UK capital markets are not supportive of technology companies and that there has been a flight of UK technology companies to list in the US. However, our analysis indicates that in fact no UK technology companies have listed in the US in the last three years; whereas during the same period more than 30 UK technology companies listed on AIM.

It appears, then, that smaller UK technology companies have already recognised the appeal of listing in London rather than in the US.

Smaller UK technology companies have, for some while, been choosing London rather than the US as their preferred listing destination and AIM can be seen to be doing its job as an incubator for UK companies. At the same time there has been a paucity of listings of larger companies both here and in the US. What is exciting about the launch of the High Growth Segment is that larger UK technology and other growth companies now have a real alternative to a Premium listing or joining AIM.

This can only be a good thing for London. Indeed, the London Stock Exchange has opened the High Growth Segment up to companies that are incorporated anywhere in the EEA, not just the UK. The expectation is, therefore, that European companies will also consider joining the High Growth Segment, further demonstrating London’s position as the leading European equity market.

What is key to this new initiative is that it provides another option to larger technology companies who wish to raise capital. UK technology companies have largely sought growth funding from the debt markets or from private equity. The High Growth Segment offers a real funding alternative.

The rest of this article can be read on economia.

John Hammond is an equity capital markets partner at Deloitte.

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What Brussels can learn from the Italian referendum

Matteo Renzi's proposed reforms would have made it easier for eurosceptic forces within Italy to gain power in upcoming elections in 2018.

The Austrian presidential elections can justifiably be claimed as a victory for supporters of the European Union. But the Italian referendum is not the triumph for euroscepticism some have claimed.

In Austria, the victorious candidate Alexander van der Bellen ruthlessly put the EU centre stage in his campaign. “From the beginning I fought and argued for a pro-European Austria,” he said after a campaign that saw posters warning against “Öxit”.

Austrians have traditionally been eurosceptic, only joining the bloc in 1995, but Brexit changed all that.  Austrian voters saw the instability in the UK and support for EU membership soared. An overwhelming majority now back continued membership.

Van der Bellen’s opponent Norbert Hofer was at an immediate disadvantage. His far right Freedom Party has long pushed for an Öxit referendum.

The Freedom Party has claimed to have undergone a Damascene conversion but voters were not fooled.  They even blamed Nigel Farage for harming their chances with an interview he gave to Fox News claiming that the party would push to leave the EU.

The European Commission, as one would expect, hailed the result. “Europe was central in the campaign that led to the election of a new president and the final result speaks for itself,” chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas said today in Brussels.

“We think the referendum in Italy was about a change to the Italian constitution and not about Europe,” Schinas added.

Brussels has a history of sticking its head in the sand when it gets political results it doesn’t like.

When asked what lessons the Commission could learn from Brexit, Schinas had said the lessons to be learnt were for the government that called the referendum.

But in this case, the commission is right. The EU was a peripheral issue compared to domestic politics in the Italian referendum.

Alberto Alemanno is Jean Monnet Professor of EU Law and an Italian. He said the reforms would have been vital to modernise Italy but rejected any idea it would lead to an Italian Brexit.

“While anti-establishment and eurosceptic actors are likely to emerge emboldened from the vote, interpreting the outcome of the Italian referendum as the next stage of Europe’s populist, anti-establishment movement – as many mainstream journalists have done – is not only factually wrong, but also far-fetched.”

Renzi was very popular in Brussels after coming to power in a palace coup in February 2014. He was a pro-EU reformer, who seemed keen to engage in European politics.

After the Brexit vote, he was photographed with Merkel and Hollande on the Italian island of Ventotene, where a landmark manifesto by the EU’s founding fathers was written.

This staged communion with the past was swiftly forgotten as Renzi indulged in increasingly virulent Brussels-bashing over EU budget flexibility in a bid to shore up his plummeting popularity. 

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker even publicly reprimanded Renzi for demonising the EU.

Renzi’s vow to resign personalised the referendum. He gave voters a chance to give him a bloody nose when his popularity was at an all-time low.

Some of the reforms he wanted were marked “to be confirmed”.  The referendum question was astonishingly verbose and complex. He was asking for a blank cheque from the voters.

Ironically Renzi’s reforms to the constitution and senate would have made it easier for the eurosceptic Five Star Movement to gain power in upcoming elections in 2018.

For reasons best known to themselves, they campaigned against the changes to their own disadvantage.

Thanks to the reforms, a Five Star government would have found it far easier to push through a “Quitaly” referendum, which now seems very distant.  

As things stand, Five Star has said it would push for an advisory vote on membership of the euro but not necessarily the EU.

The Italian constitution bans the overruling of international treaties by popular vote, so Five Star would need to amend the constitution. That would require a two thirds majority in both houses of parliament and then another referendum on euro membership. Even that could be blocked by one of the country’s supreme courts.

The Italian referendum was closely watched in Brussels. It was hailed as another triumph for euroscepticism by the likes of Farage and Marine Le Pen. But Italians are far more likely to be concerned about the possibility of financial turbulence, which has so far been mildly volatile, than any prospect of leaving the EU in the near future.

James Crisp is the news editor at EurActiv.com.