EXCLUSIVE: Aquis, the new stock exchange for SMEs to raise money through investors, hopes to raise £100m worth of finance for growth businesses this year.
Since launch, Aquis has raised £70m worth of growth capital for companies.
The exchange, which sees itself as becoming a Nasdaq for Britain and a competitor to the AIM market, would eventually like to see between 200 and 300 companies listing on it.
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Aquis itself is divided into two sub exchanges: Access, for small businesses which want to raise capital by floating 10 per cent minimum of their stock; and Apex, for mature companies going public with 25 per cent of shares for a market capitalisation anywhere north of £30m.
Eighty companies have gone public so far through Access, some raising around £2-3m each with an average market capitalisation of £14m. Another 20 companies are listed on the Apex exchange.
Aquis sees its selling points for growth businesses as being nearly half the cost of listing on AIM, with a lower barrier to entry for smaller businesses and transparency for investors.
Alasdair Haynes, CEO of Aquis Exchange, said: “Aquis allows early stage companies to grow into being a public company.”
Aquis sees itself as a walled garden or closed ecosystem where companies never have to leave the exchange, no matter how large they become. So it’s not a question of migrating to AIM after listing on Aquis, rather than moving on to the exchange’s own Apex market.
Haynes said: “You’re getting companies in at a young age with Access and some will move on to Apex and some will move onto the Main Market.”
And although Haynes is proud to have convinced such frankly Sloane-y brands as winemaker Chapeldown and Newbury Racecourse to list, Aquis also boasts tech start-ups including blockchain investor KR1, e-commerce brand Samarkand Global and anti-pollution innovator Sulnox.
Haynes said: “The mixture of new and old businesses is important to me. It’s really important having the old traditional businesses, which are solid and sound and trust us, alongside the high-growth businesses.”
Eventually he would like to see Aquis become a British version of Nasdaq with up to 300 companies listed, 10-20 per cent of which could go on to be tech titans. In the US, Amazon, Apple and Facebook all listed on Nasdaq.
Aquis is especially keen to hear from businesses in e-commerce, e-sports and biotech spaces or “anything with disruptive models in order to change into the new economy. These are the businesses that excite us as they potentially have huge growth ahead of them and they find it hard to raise capital. We are a very good venue for people to raise that capital while giving them a protected environment to grow in,” Haynes said.
What do I need to float on Aquis?
As to what a business hoping to list on the early stage Access market needs to show is that it is revenue generating and it has a comprehensive business plan, which is approved by regulator the FCA.
Haynes said that he was frustrated by the diminishing number of companies listing in Britain to raise capital. It used to be that the public markets were the first port of call for British entrepreneurs. No longer.
Haynes said: “If you talk to most growth companies, they look to venture capital or family offices first, and the public markets as the last place to go. but there’s never been a more important time, post Brexit and post Covid for companies to raise capital efficiently and quickly. The public markets really should be the first port of call. We need to get the public back into public markets, and that’s been missing for a long time.
“What we’ve seen over the last 50 years is a gradual decline in companies going public, which is bad for companies raising finance and bad for investors. The truth is that companies like Deliveroo went public far too late, not too soon.”