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Britain to ease listing rules to buttress London after Brexit

Tue 2nd March, 2021 10:30pm
* Review recommends dual shares, lower free float
    * Listing rules for SPACs should be liberalised
    * High governance standards safeguarded, says Sunak
    * Annual "State of the City" report to parliament
    * Fundamental review of prospectuses

    By Huw Jones
    LONDON, March 2 (Reuters) - Britain will "modernise" its
listing rules to attract more high-growth and "blank cheque"
SPAC company flotations to London, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak
said on Tuesday.
    The London Stock Exchange is facing tougher competition from
NYSE and Nasdaq in New York, and from Euronext in Amsterdam
since Britain fully left the European Union on Dec. 31.
    In a bid to keep London globally competitive after Brexit,
Sunak commissioned a review of listings rules last November. It
was led by former European Commissioner Jonathan Hill and will
publish its recommendations on Wednesday.
    "The review has more than delivered and I'm keen we move
quickly to consult on its recommendations, cementing the UK's
reputation at the front of global financial services," Sunak
said in a statement.
    The government faces pressure to act - it announced a
fast-track work visa scheme last week for fintechs - after
swathes of euro stock and swaps trading left London for
Amsterdam and New York after full Brexit in December.
    But asset managers and company directors warn about eroding
corporate governance standards by easing listing rules.
    "The recommendations in this report are not about opening a
gap between us and other global centres by proposing radical new
departures to try to seize a competitive advantage," Hill said.
    "They are about closing a gap which has already opened up.
All the recommendations are consistent with existing practices
in other well-regulated financial centres in the USA, Asia and
Europe," Hill added.
    Two changes seek to move London in line with New York and
other financial centres by allowing founders to list their
company while still retaining significant control.
    As widely trailed, Hill recommends allowing dual class share
structures to give directors and founders enhanced voting rights
on certain decisions, a move retail investor groups say is
contrary to the "one share, one vote" principle. The minimum
"free float" or amount of a company's shares or in public hands
would be cut from 25% to 15%.
    Hill also recommends liberalising listing rules for special
purpose acquisition companies or SPACs, whose flotations in New
York have surged over the past year, with Amsterdam also
attracting some recently.
    The prospectus, used by companies to set out their initial
or secondary offer of shares, should also be fundamentally
reviewed, Hill has recommended.
    There should also be an annual "State of the City" report
form the finance minister to parliament on the financial
sector's competitive position.
    "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," said
David Schwimmer, chief executive of the LSE Group  LSEG.L .

 (Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by David Evans)
 ((; +44 207 542 3326; Reuters
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