The AIM dream lives on

Even in rosier economic times, who in their right mind would ever float their company on the stock market?

You’re suddenly answerable to hundreds of people, from shareholders to regulators. You have to shell out six-figure sums for the privilege of having strangers snoop around your business. And instead of being master of your own destiny, your company’s fortunes are now subject to the whims of the market.

Thanks to the current economic malaise, that pain has increased tenfold. And yet, listing retains its appeal. A recent poll on this website found that 55 per cent of those not already listed on AIM would do so, given the opportunity.

That’s a lot, especially when you consider the following facts. When AIM was launched in 1995 the FTSE AIM All Share Index had a base value of 2,000. It’s now languishing at below 500. Initial public offerings (IPOs) have slowed to the merest trickle: no money at all was raised on the market in October.

Ron Petersen, partner at healthcare-focused VC firm Longbow Capital, says a public listing is a poor option for the kind of companies he invests in. He should know: he’s run four quoted companies in his time.

‘AIM is a one-trick pony,’ Petersen reckons. ‘You raise money once, you get a big marketing opportunity and for a short time it’s very flattering. The problem is, can you ever raise more?’

Tony Rawlinson is chairman of City broker Dowgate Capital, itself listed on AIM. He observes, ‘There are probably 200 to 300 companies with such deflated share prices that they can’t issue shares, but they’re spending £100,000 a year just for the privilege of being quoted.’

On the flip side, there are companies like social housing maintenance provider Mears Group. If you had invested £1,000 in Mears when it first listed on AIM in 1996, you would now be sitting on roughly £22,800 excluding dividends – and that’s after the inevitable slide in share price that companies of all sizes have suffered this year. The company’s turnover had bulged from £12 million when it listed to £305 million by the time it left AIM to join the Main Market in June.

There are dozens of similar stories, and perhaps they are why a majority of GrowthBusiness readers still aspire to the status and recognition a public listing can provide. Good luck to them.

Nick Britton

Nick Britton

Nick was the Managing Editor for when it was owned by Vitesse Media, before moving on to become Head of Investment Group and Editor at What Investment and thence to Head of Intermediary...

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