Recent efforts to bolster the U.K.’s regime for listing public companies is entering a new phase with the launch of a consultation on further reforms to boost the appeal of public markets.
Coming on the heels of earlier reforms — including measures to enable more shell company listings, allowing dual class share structures, lowering free float requirements and introducing digital financial reporting — the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published a paper on additional reforms to attract more companies to the U.K. markets, and to expand opportunities for investors.
Among other things, the FCA is considering an end to its approach that requires companies to choose between two sets of listing standards and branding (standard or premium).
Instead, it’s proposing that listed companies be required to meet a single set of listing standards, with the option of also meeting an added set of requirements focused on enhanced shareholder engagement.
The FCA said that the feedback it received on an earlier consultation indicated that – alongside concerns with the existing two-tier listing rules – many in the market also wanted to retain added investor safeguards, with companies and shareholders having the ability to determine whether additional obligations are appropriate for them.
“The London market is trusted the world over by companies looking to raise capital and those wishing to invest in them. That trust is created by strong standards and a world-leading concentration of buyers, sellers and the advisers who support them,” said Clare Cole, director of market oversight at the FCA, in a release.
“The rules for companies who want to list here have not changed since the 1980s. Now is a good time to have an open conversation to make sure our rules are fit for the future, so we have a more accessible, competitive and growing market that is attractive to a diverse range of companies,” she added.
Policymakers in the U.K. have been seeking to bolster the public markets in recent years, after observing that listings dropped 40% since 2008, and that the U.K. was only producing about 5% of global initial public offering (IPO) activity.
In the wake of the earlier reforms to other rules, the U.K. markets had its best year for equity underwriting since the financial crisis — with £16.9 billion raised in IPOs last year — the regulator noted.
The deadline for providing feedback to the latest consultation is July 28.