20 February 2008

Listing on the main market of the London Stock Exchange - An overview


Introduction

This note is intended as a general guide to assist a company (the ‘*Company*') which may be considering an IPO on the main market of the London Stock Exchange (the ‘*Exchange*'), to identify what steps should be taken towards achieving that aim.  This note also provides a checklist of some of the key considerations that should be borne in mind when deciding whether or not an IPO is right for the Company and/or its shareholders.

Listing in London

More than 3,200 companies are listed on the Exchange with a total market capitalisation in excess of US$9,000bn.  In 2007, 264 companies listed in London compared with 298 on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Nasdaq combined.  In 2007 companies on the Exchange raised US$87 billion compared to US$15 billion on the NYSE and US$20 billion on Nasdaq.

Why list and why in London?

The main reasons most companies give for obtaining a listing are to:

  • provide access to capital for growth
  • encourage employee commitment
  • create a market for their shares
  • increase a company's ability to make acquisitions
  • obtain an objective market value
  • create a heightened public profile
  • enhance status with customers and suppliers

A London listing has a number of attractions:

  • The Exchange is the largest stock exchange in Europe and the world's most internationally focused.
  • London is a global financial centre – all the major banks have offices in London.
  • The great majority of all IPOs on Western European exchanges take place in London.
  • London is well known for its high standards of regulation.

Main market

A company with an anticipated market capitalisation of £250m or more is likely to be looking at obtaining a listing on the main market rather than the AIM market assuming London is its first choice listing location.  The next issue to consider is whether the Company should undertake a primary equity listing or consider issuing global depositary receipts (‘GDRs')

The table below compares the key differences for admission for a primary equity listing as opposed to a listing of GDRs or a NYSE or Nasdaq listing.

Authors

Category: Article

Listing requirements for the main market - equity securities vs GDRS

London Main Market (equity securities

London Main Market GDRs

NYSE

Nasdaq

Account Requirements

London Main Market (equity securities

Latest 3 years audited accounts

London Main Market GDRs

Latest 3 years audited accounts (or such shorter period that the issuer has been in operation)

NYSE

Latest 3 years audited accounts

Nasdaq

Latest 3 years audited accounts

Recognised accounting standard

London Main Market (equity securities

IFRS or equivalents

London Main Market GDRs

IFRS or equivalent

NYSE

US GAAP

Nasdaq

US GAAP

Market capitalisation

London Main Market (equity securities

£700,000

London Main Market GDRs

£700,000

NYSE

Earnings of US$100m over past 3 years with US$25m minimum in each year OR previous fiscal year revenues of US$100m plus average global market cap of US$1bn

Nasdaq

Generally – 2 years operating history. Stockholders equity of at least US$1m in Net Income OR a market cap/revenue/total assets of US$75m

Shares in public London

London Main Market (equity securities

25%

London Main Market GDRs

25%

NYSE

2.5m shares (worldwide)

Nasdaq

1.1m shares

A common structure of offering by companies listing in London is to conduct an equity raising in London but also make what is known as a 144A offering of GDRS in the US. The requirements for an equity offering are more stringent than those for a GDR offering and the table below set out the key criteria for an equity offering in addition to those set out above:

Minimum public float

25% of shares in public hands

Minimum public float

Market capitalisation

25% of shares in public hands

£700,000 (in reality, ideally £100 – 200m or more)

Minimum public float

Trading History

25% of shares in public hands

3 years

Minimum public float

Accounting standards

25% of shares in public hands

IFRS or equivalent

Minimum public float

Working Capital

25% of shares in public hands

Working capital statement covering 12 months following Admission

Minimum public float

Shareholder approval for transactions

25% of shares in public hands

Class tests require shareholder approval for a Class 1 acquisition (broadly speaking acquiring or disposing of a company or assets worth more than a quarter of the company's value) or on a reverse takeover

Minimum public float

Primary adviser

25% of shares in public hands

A sponsor must be appointed

Minimum public float

Cost of listing

25% of shares in public hands

Minimum: £700,000 – £900,000

Minimum public float

Ongoing costs

25% of shares in public hands

Typically 7-10% of funds raised

Minimum public float

Lock-in requirements

25% of shares in public hands

Higher fees for sponsors, auditors, lawyers and non-executive directors in view of greater continuing obligations. Typical cost of maintaining listing is £300,000 – £400,000 p.a.

Minimum public float

Insider List and annual information update

25% of shares in public hands

None in theory, but in practice at least one year

Minimum public float

Announce half year results

25% of shares in public hands

Obligation to publish insider list and annual information update

Minimum public float

Publication of full year accounts

25% of shares in public hands

Within 2 months of end of period

Minimum public float

Interim management statements

25% of shares in public hands

Within 4 months of the end of the financial year

Minimum public float

Disclosure of remuneration

25% of shares in public hands

Unless the Company publishes quarterly financial reports, its management must release a statement during the first 6-month period of any financial year and also during the second 6-month period

Minimum public float

Number of independent non-executive directors (excluding the Chairman of the board)

25% of shares in public hands

Detailed directors' remuneration report

Minimum public float

Limit on non pre-emptive share issues

25% of shares in public hands

Three

Minimum public float

Other conditions for a primary equity listing

25% of shares in public hands

5% per annum (or 7.5% in 3 year period)

Minimum public float

At least 75% of the Company's business must be supported by a historic revenue earning record covering the last 3 financial years (1) The Company must control and have controlled its assets for the last 3 financial years; (2) The Company must be carrying on an independent business as its main activity; (3) The total of all warrants or options to subscribe for equity shares must not exceed 10% of the Company's issued equity share capital; (4) The Company's shares must be freely transferable and eligible for electronic settlement

25% of shares in public hands

What are the key obligations for fully listed companies?

In considering a London listing, the Company should be aware of a number of key obligations:

  • The Company’s shares must be freely transferable and eligible for electronic settlement.
  • Retirement of Directors – in practice, the sponsor will require one-third of the board to retire by rotation each year.
  • Notice Period – directors’ service contracts to have notice periods of no more than 12 months.
  • Remuneration of non-executive directors – non-executive directors not to be remunerated in shares or share options.
  • Length of service of non-executive directors – annual shareholder approval required of any non-executive director who has served on the board for more than nine years.
  • Shareholder approval – shareholder approval for substantial property transactions with directors and connected persons.
  • Restrictions on dealing – no dealing in the two months prior to publication of half year and full year results and insider dealing and market abuse rules apply.
  • Filing of accounts – accounts need to be filed within six months of year-end.

Advisers

The Company will need to appoint the following:

  • Investment bank – the investment bank will manage the IPO process and co-ordinate the listing with the other advisors. Often, it will also act as financial adviser, sponsor (a supervisory role required by the Financial Services Authority) and underwriter. Normally, the lead bank acts as global co-ordinator and a number of banks will also be appointed as bookrunners.
  • Lawyers – lawyers will be required to advise the Company itself, as well as any shareholder who is selling all or part of its stake as part of the IPO. The sponsor and underwriter will also require lawyers. The Company’s lawyers will be responsible for drafting the ‘back end’ of the prospectus which contains all legal information relating to the company including share capital, material contracts and litigation. They will also manage the ‘verification’ process, which seeks to ensure that the prospectus is not misleading in any way, thus protecting the directors of the Company against any claims by investors for misrepresentation or a breach of section 80 Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, which entitles investors to sue for compensation if there is a materially misleading statement or omission in the prospectus.
  • Reporting accountants – these must be separate from the Company’s auditors, although they may be made up of a different team from the same firm. Essentially, the reporting accountant is responsible for reviewing the Company’s financial record and internal systems for potential investors. They will prepare the long form report, the short form report (which is published in the prospectus) and the working capital report.
  • PR Consultants – the PR consultants will help to generate positive publicity and interest in the IPO by targeting either investors among the general public or institutions or both.
  • Others – the Company will need to appoint registrars, a receiving bank and any other advisors that may be required in relation to its specific business.

Preparing the way for a listing

Careful consideration should be given to the following issues in preparing for a listing:

  • Deciding on the method of listing, e.g. an introduction to the market, raising new money, a public offer or a placing to institutional investors.
  • Identifying any necessary changes to the board and/or its operations. If the shareholders have identified changes which need be made to the board or the shape of the business these should be enacted as early as possible.
  • Ensuring the Company has sufficient internal resources to dedicate to the IPO.
  • Beginning the valuation process.

Review of corporate structure and financial reporting

The Company and its lawyers will need to consider how best to approach the listing in terms of the Company’s corporate structure and financial reporting history, given that the Company is not registered in the UK. 

Key issues will include:

  • Whether the Company itself should be listed or should a UK holding company be created for the purposes of the listing?
  • Reviewing and amending, as necessary, the Company’s constitutional documents.
  • Have the Company’s accounts been prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)?
  • Should the Company be seeking a primary equity listing or a listing of GDRs?

Due Diligence

As regards legal and financial due diligence for the IPO, this will understandably be a time consuming process.  Early preparation particularly as regards collating and centralising material contracts is important.

Tax

If the Company needs to be reorganised as part of the review of the corporate structure then any tax impact will need to be considered well ahead of time to ensure that any necessary tax clearances from the relevant fiscal authority can be obtained.

Individual shareholders who are disposing of all or part of their stake as part of the IPO will need to consider their own tax position and obtain appropriate advice.

Contents of the Prospectus

The following information will have to be included in the prospectus:

  • Details of the Company’s group structure and its subsidiaries.
  • History of the Company and its share capital.
  • The Company’s business and future plans.
  • Information about the sector in which the Company operates and its main competitors.
  • Financial information for the last three years.
  • Any regulatory regimes to which the Company is subject.
  • Applicable corporate governance regimes and a statement of the Company’s compliance with them.
  • Directors’ interests in the Company and their remuneration.
  • Details of the Company’s constitution.
  • Details of any share option schemes either in place or proposed.
  • Any ongoing litigation of a material value.
  • Material contracts – these will include all contracts with advisors in relation to the IPO, as well as any key contracts the termination of which would have a material impact on the Company’s business, and any other contracts that are not in the ordinary course of business.
  • Details of how the proceeds of the listing will be applied.
  • Risk factors affecting the Company’s business.

Directors and employees

Directors’ service contracts will need to be formalised since details of them will have to be disclosed for the purposes of the prospectus.

As part of the listing, the directors will be required to complete and sign a ‘Directors Questionnaire’ setting out, inter alia:

  • all directorships (whether executive or non-executive) of any company during the last 5 years;
  • the number of shares, options, warrants or other securities held in any company;
  • the details of any directorships of any company which has been put into liquidation, administration etc.;
  • details of any investigation whether criminal, tax, insolvency or securities related;
  • details of any UK or foreign judgements involving civil liability for fraud or other misconduct in connection with any directorships; and
  • details of all criminal offences other than minor road offences.

Corporate Governance

The Company will have to be aware of and generally satisfy the ‘best practice’ guidelines applicable to public companies contained in the Combined Code which regulate corporate governance.  Disclosure is required in the Company’s report and accounts outlining to what extent they comply with the Combined Code. 

Among the more prominent issues raised in the Combined Code are the separation of the role of chairman and chief executive, the need for independent non-executive directors and effective internal controls. 

Best practice also typically includes the adoption by the Company of:

  • Corporate governance guidelines; and
  • Separate audit, remuneration and nomination committees.

How much does a listing cost?

The total average fees for a main market listing depend on the size, sector and structure of the Company coming to the market as this affects the nature and level of due diligence required.  The base level for admission costs would normally be in the region of £700,000 – £900,000.

On top of these fees, the Company will need to pay the broker’s fees for raising the funds (unless listing by way of an introduction) which may be in the region of 4-6% of funds raised.

The Timetable

It is difficult to be precise on the length of time for a listing since the process is influenced by so many variables being the size, sector and structure of the Company, the method of flotation being used and the degree and complexity of due diligence which has to be conducted. Most flotations take approximately 6 to 9 months from the time that the decision is made to admission.

The process is complex and time-consuming and identifying a small team within the Company to commit their time and energies to driving the listing may be worth considering as it may be less disruptive than having all the directors continually interrupted during the course of their normal work.  However, either approach will still require all the directors at some stage or another to provide documentation and information and review the listing documentation.

The following is a rough timetable for a full listing on the Exchange (I-DAY refers to ‘Impact Day’ – the day on which the company’s prospectus will approved by the United Kingdom Listing Authority (‘UKLA’) and published):

Deadline

Event

Deadline

18 weeks before I-DAY

Event

Board to approve listing in principle (1) Company to appoint advisers; (2) Agree timetable for the listing, including the date for any necessary meetings and I-DAY itself; (2) Agree documents list for the listing; (3) Company's lawyers to review the Company's constitution to assess any internal steps to be taken in relation to the listing; (4) Other considerations such as tax clearances

Deadline

14 weeks before I-DAY

Event

(1) Circulate first draft of prospectus and hold first drafting meetings; (2) Accountants to complete first draft of long-form report; (3) Company lawyers to finalize any necessary changes to Company's constitution; (3) Company lawyers to apply for tax clearances, if necessary

Deadline

8 weeks before I-DAY

Event

(1) Drafting meetings on prospectus continues; (2) Submit early draft prospectus to Exchange for comments; (3) Receive tax clearances, if necessary; (4) Hold first meeting on underwriting agreement; (5) Accountants to begin preparing statement of indebtedness and working capital report

Deadline

6 weeks before I-DAY

Event

(1) Drafting meetings on prospectus continue; (2) Draft prospectus submitted to UKLA at least 20 clear business days before publication; (3) Commence marketing and publicity for IPO, make public announcement of intention to list; ; (4) Accountants complete long form and working capital reports; (5) Company lawyers prepare first draft of verification notes

Deadline

4 weeks before I-DAY

Event

(1) Drafting meetings on prospectus continues; (2) Accountants finalize short form report to be inserted into prospectus and statement of indebtedness; (3) Negotiations on underwriting agreement continue

Deadline

3 weeks before I-DAY

Event

(1) Drafting meetings on prospectus continues; (2) All documents to be substantially agreed with UKLA; (3) Verification meeting to finalize verification notes

Deadline

2 weeks before I-DAY

Event

(1) Finalize underwriting agreement; (2) Prospectus in pathfinder form; (3) Presentations to potential investors

Deadline

2/3 days before I-DAY

Event

(1) Close application lists for investors; (2) Application for admission submitted to UKLA; (3) Completion board meeting

Deadline

I-DAY

Event

(1) Admission to official list and CREST; (2) Trading commences

Conclusion

Listing a company on any stock exchange is a complex and time consuming process.  Choosing the right advisers together with early and careful planning will help ensure that the process proceeds more smoothly.