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Stock exchanges should consider measures to entice family-owned firms to pursue public listings, suggests a report published Monday from the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE).

The report from the industry trade group examines the opportunities and challenges for exchanges to seek listings from family businesses.

It is based research, interviews, and a survey of 50 listed and 76 unlisted family businesses in 20 countries, including Canada. The report notes that nearly a quarter of the companies in the TSX60 index are family firms (defined as firms in which a family maintains voting control).

Family-owned firms have attributes that fundamentally distinguish them from widely-held firms, according to the report, including: they may focus on attaining balance between family welfare and financial performance; they may have different approaches to corporate governance; and they can be reluctant to erode long-term control by bringing in outside shareholders.

“The unique attributes of family firms, coupled with a potential disconnect between unlisted firms’ perceptions, and listed firms’ experiences, of going public means that stock exchanges have an opportunity to increase the attractiveness of listing for family firms,” the WFE says in a news release.

The report sets out several recommendations for exchanges to improve their ability to attract public listings from family firms.

“Family-owned businesses are a key component of all thriving equity markets, but interestingly, the WFE’s research into family-owned businesses demonstrates there is an awareness gap between the reality and perception of listing for family firms,” says Nandini Sukumar, CEO, WFE, in a statement. “The WFE’s recommendations, based on research and analysis, are a foundation for improving an exchange’s own capabilities in this increasingly important market segment, to enhance the listing experience for family firms.”

“The WFE believes that understanding the specific characteristics and attributes of family firms is an important first step for exchange operators who wish to attract more family firms to their markets, as these firms require a discrete approach when considering an IPO,” adds Siobhan Cleary, head of research and public policy, WFE.