Simon Brickles, chief executive of PLUS Markets Group, which runs the private Ofex share market, says he is closely watching the implications of an LSE takeover for AIM, the Stock Exchange’s fast-growing £32 billion junior market that he used to run until moving to Ofex before Christmas.
‘I did not move to OFEX for no reason,’ hinted Brickles last week, as he contemplated the radical implications for AIM that a change in the LSE’s ownership could involve. Some participants see this as an opportunity for the recently-languishing £1.2 billion Ofex market and the ambitious Brickles is seen as one of them.
‘It could be the best possible Christmas present for me,’ he remarked. ‘But for now I am keeping my powder dry.’ Brickles’ emergence as chief executive of PLUS Markets took many observers by surprise and followed a turbulent period for Ofex, which had originally been founded by veteran share dealer John Jenkins in 1995. His intention was to help fill the financing gap for small, young companies and to provide a home for companies wanting a valuation but not interested in major stock market activity.
Ofex flourished in the dotcom boom, but took severe punishment when that bubble burst. Jenkins, acting through his John Jenkins company, eventually initiated various changes to restore confidence and liquidity, which included setting up AIM-quoted Ofex Holdings to run the show.
But this arrangement was seen as too close to the family and did not survive a funding crunch late last year. Ofex Holdings became PLUS Markets, the Jenkins family relinquished control and Brickles, former head of the AIM team, took the helm. An interesting period lies ahead.