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EU trailing UK capital market reforms, Frankfurt bourse official says

Published Nov 28, 2023 03:08AM ET
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© Reuters. The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, September 28, 2023. REUTERS/Staff/File Photo
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By Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro

LONDON (Reuters) - The EU is falling behind Britain in tapping into savers' money to boost the stock market, despite reforms in continental Europe being a step in the right direction, an official with Germany's bourse told Reuters.

"In terms of policy change, in the UK there's a realisation that we need to incentivise more capital; we're not there yet in Germany," said Stefan Maassen, head of Capital Markets & Corporates at Deutsche Boerse (ETR:DB1Gn), which operates the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

Maassen, a former investment banker, was referring to initiatives by the UK government aimed at directing up to 75 billion pounds ($93.46 billion) of extra capital into growth companies as part of efforts to encourage local stock listings.

Last week, UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt outlined measures in his autumn budget to pool pension funds and increase their allocation to unlisted equities.

Hunt stopped short of increasing the tax-free allowance for individual savings accounts (ISAs) to promote investment in British companies, an idea previously reported to be under consideration.

For Maassen there is an opportunity in Europe to rival US capital markets.

"Forty percent of German household assets are sitting in cash accounts, you have the big pension funds and institutional asset managers," he said. "If we were to mobilise part of the capital available in Europe, then we would have a similar depth of market to the U.S."

His comments come amid a dearth of IPOs across the Western world due to economic uncertainty and higher borrowing costs.

So far, Germany has only seen three major listings this year - IONOS, ThyssenKrupp Nucera and Schott Pharma (ETR:1SXP) - with other local candidates such as lender OLB Bank, tank gearbox maker Renk and on-road payments group DKV Mobility being forced to defer their listing ambitions.

While making predictions is "super difficult", Maassen said he hoped to see around 10 to 15 IPOs in Frankfurt next year, as markets get better visibility over interest rates and confidence rises.

Besides market turbulence, European exchanges also face the risk of local champions listing on a U.S. exchange in search of better liquidity and higher valuations.

Earlier this year, Germany's Birkenstock (NYSE:BIRK) debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in a much-anticipated IPO, but the iconic sandal maker has since traded below its issue price.

"If you look at European companies that have listed in the U.S., few have been successful. And there's not a single U.S. institutional investor that can't invest here," he said.

Maassen praised initiatives like Germany's Financing for the Future Act, recently approved by the country's lower house of parliament, which lowers the requirements for start-ups to pursue an initial public offering and increases tax breaks for employee share schemes.

The EU is debating new legislation meant to simplify IPOs across the 27-member bloc known as the Listing Act.

Maassen urged policymakers to speed up the implementation of the Capital Markets Union, a longstanding project to create a single market for capital beyond national borders.

"We need to build an EU framework that's implemented at country level," he said.

Since Brexit, the European Union has had greater opportunity to deepen capital markets, as financial firms can no longer passport services from the UK and instead need to create hubs on the continent.

Earlier this month, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde called for a capital markets union, with a single supervisor and trading infrastructure, to finance its digitalisation and green transition.

European startups attract less than half the funding of U.S. counterparts, Lagarde noted.

($1 = 0.8025 pounds)

EU trailing UK capital market reforms, Frankfurt bourse official says

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