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.

The right enviroment for a new Google? Photograph: Getty Images
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I'm far from convinced by Cameron's plans for Syria

The Prime Minister has a plan for when the bombs drop. But what about after?

In the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister set out a powerful case for Britain to join air strikes against Isil in Syria.  Isil, he argued, poses a direct threat to Britain and its people, and Britain should not be in the business of “outsourcing our security to our allies”. And while he conceded that further airstrikes alone would not be sufficient to beat Isil, he made the case for an “Isil first” strategy – attacking Isil now, while continuing to do what we can diplomatically to help secure a lasting settlement for Syria in which Assad (eventually) plays no part.

I agreed with much of David Cameron’s analysis. And no-one should doubt either the murderous barbarism of Isil in the region, or the barbarism they foment and inspire in others across the world.  But at the end of his lengthy Q&A session with MPs, I remained unconvinced that UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria was the right option. Because the case for action has to be a case for action that has a chance of succeeding.  And David Cameron’s case contained neither a plan for winning the war, nor a plan for winning the peace.

The Prime Minister, along with military experts and analysts across the world, concedes that air strikes alone will not defeat Isil, and that (as in Iraq) ground forces are essential if we want to rid Syria of Isil. But what is the plan to assemble these ground forces so necessary for a successful mission?  David Cameron’s answer today was more a hope than a plan. He referred to “70,000 Syrian opposition fighters - principally the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – with whom we can co-ordinate attacks on Isil”.

But it is an illusion to think that these fighters can provide the ground forces needed to complement aerial bombardment of Isil.  Many commentators have begun to doubt whether the FSA continues to exist as a coherent operational entity over the past few months. Coralling the myriad rebel groups into a disciplined force capable of fighting and occupying Isil territory is a heroic ambition, not a plan. And previous efforts to mobilize the rebels against Isil have been utter failures. Last month the Americans abandoned a $500m programme to train and turn 5,400 rebel fighters into a disciplined force to fight Isil. They succeeded in training just 60 fighters. And there have been incidents of American-trained fighters giving some of their US-provided equipment to the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Why has it proven so hard to co-opt rebel forces in the fight against Isil? Because most of the various rebel groups are fighting a war against Assad, not against Isil.  Syria’s civil war is gruesome and complex, but it is fundamentally a Civil War between Assad’s forces and a variety of opponents of Assad’s regime. It would be a mistake for Britain to base a case for military action against Isil on the hope that thousands of disparate rebel forces can be persuaded to change their enemy – especially when the evidence so far is that they won’t.

This is a plan for military action that, at present, looks highly unlikely to succeed.  But what of the plan for peace? David Cameron today argued for the separation of the immediate task at hand - to strike against Isil in Syria – from the longer-term ambition of achieving a settlement in Syria and removing Assad.  But for Isil to be beaten, the two cannot be separated. Because it is only by making progress in developing a credible and internationally-backed plan for a post-Assad Syria that we will persuade Syrian Sunnis that fighting Isil will not end up helping Assad win the Civil War.  If we want not only to rely on rebel Sunnis to provide ground troops against Isil, but also provide stable governance in Isil-occupied areas when the bombing stops, progress on a settlement to Syria’s Civil War is more not less urgent.  Without it, the reluctance of Syrian Sunnis to think that our fight is their fight will undermine the chances of military efforts to beat Isil and bring basic order to the regions they control. 

This points us towards doubling down on the progress that has already been made in Vienna: working with the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states, as well as Russia and Iran. We need not just a combined approach to ending the conflict, but the prospect of a post-war Syria that offers a place for those whose cooperation we seek to defeat Isil. No doubt this will strike some as insufficient in the face of the horrors perpetrated by Isil. But I fear that if we want not just to take action against Isil but to defeat them and prevent their return, it offers a better chance of succeeding than David Cameron’s proposal today. 

Stewart Wood is a former Shadow Cabinet minister and adviser to Ed Miliband. He tweets as @StewartWood.