PLUS Markets

Share market operator PLUS Markets Group intends to leave AIM for its own PLUS-Listed platform, writes Leslie Copeland.

Simon Brickles, chief executive of the fast-expanding company, says it will move its shares this year from AIM to PLUS-Listed, which claims to offer specialist issuers a “cost-effective alternative to the London Stock Exchange main market”

Pointing out that PLUS Markets processed £8.83 billion of share trades in the first three months of this year – more than the £7.5 billion handled for the whole of 2007 – he suggests that PLUS could find itself dealing with “more than half of the share trading in half of all the publicly-traded companies in Britain”.

He says that prospect depends on the authorities allowing PLUS to trade all AIM-quoted companies without first going through the cumbersome process of obtaining their prior consent. PLUS already trades 80 AIM companies and reports that it now handles more than half the trading in 60 of them.

PLUS can already trade fully-listed companies without prior consent and now handles between 3.5 and 4.8 per cent by value in dealings in heavyweight LSE counters, such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life.

PLUS, which offers low- or zero-cost trading facilities and seeks to make money by charging for market data, insists that ending the AIM ‘anomaly’ is in line with the European Union’s MiFID financial markets directive.

After increasing turnover 43 per cent last year to £3.1 million, the company sustained a 150 per cent loss increase to £3 million. PLUS says it has £21 million cash and will become “cash flow generative” if, as expected, the authorities give it the green light on AIM trading.

Brickles argues that a once-rumoured deal with the Project Turquoise inter-bank share-dealing venture would be “complementary” to PLUS Markets’ existing activities, but does not suggest any such deal is imminent. He says the company thinks it is time to push its PLUS-Quoted market (formerly Ofex) more aggressively.

Avia arrives, Silverback retreats

Recent newcomers to PLUS Quoted included Avia Investments, which raised £380,000 during its IPO with the help of adviser Lion Capital. Brought to PLUS by experienced duo Barry Giddings, as chairman, and Nigel Leavy, as finance director, Avia plans to buy or invest in businesses in the healthcare technology sector, where they see potential for consolidation and growth.

Daily Internet is another new venture whose entrance to the market was preceeded by a successful £524,000 fundraising with the help of Loeb Aron. The company, which provides an array of web hosting solutions, including email and domain registration, is led by Abby Hardoon, the entrepreneur who sold Host Europe to Pipex Communications for more than £30 million cash in 2004.

Going against the grain was Silverback Media, which announced it was withdrawing its shares from PLUS and Deutsche Börse “at the earliest permitted opportunity”, citing a lack of trades on both, as well as a drain on cash and management resources that outweighed any benefits to shareholders.

Leslie Copeland

Leslie Copeland

Leslie was made Editor for Growth Company Investor magazine in 2000, then headed up the launch of Business XL magazine, and then became Editorial Director in 2007 for the online and print publication portfolio...

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PLUS Markets Group