Financial Services Marketing

US Firms to London?
London’s AIM market has found itself welcoming a flotilla of US firms, as increasing numbers of growing North American businesses cross the Atlantic in search of a stock market listing.

The causes of this influx are two-fold. Firstly there are the quirks of the US market itself. As Donald Stewart of law firm Faegre & Benson explains, US corporate finance advisers keen to raise equity finance for small and medium sized companies are getting themselves acquainted with AIM because ‘NASDAQ’ has raised its bar. 

Imposing minimum market capitalizations and share
prices has left large numbers of
US growth companies with nowhere to go. The US National Venture Capital Association estimates there has been a 59 per cent decline in listings for small to medium sized companies in the US.’

Then there is the regulation. In the wake of the Enron scandal, US regulators introduced the controversial Sarbanes-Oxley standards, which were designed to tighten up the regulation and accounting standards applicable to quoted companies. 

While they appear to have achieved this some have suggested that they may have actually gone too far and, as a side effect, increasing numbers of growing US companies have started to look overseas for a stock market listing. AIM seems to be the natural choice.

Certainly to Jarvis Coffin, chief executive of Massachusetts-based internet advertising group Burst Media, (click link for 2008 company report REVENUES $28m) the aforementioned factors were key in deciding to list in London. 

It has been a sunny spring for AIM, with valuations getting a much needed boost from a recovery in investor sentiment. The AIM All Share index, which began the year below 400, is now over 500. Advisers will be hoping this heralds a renewed enthusiasm among companies for floating on the market, which has seen only two initial public offerings so far this year.

The most striking change this month is that Collins Stewart has dropped to fifth place in the broker table and seventh as a nomad. The firm, which has normally come second in both of those rankings since our records began in 2007, lost six clients last month, but it retains the biggest slice of AIM by market capitalization, representing companies worth almost £3 billion.

Because of the wide range of sizes among AIM companies, and the preference of some firms to serve particular niches of the market, there is only a weak correlation between the number of clients on an adviser’s books and the total valuation of those clients.

AIM Adviser Index Article Date: Jun 11 2009

Of the top ten AIM nomads by aggregate client capitalization, only six are listed in the table below: the remainder being Numis, JP Morgan Securities, Panmure Gordon and Investec Investment Banking. Equally, WH Ireland has risen to third place in the broker ranking, its highest position since our records began, and yet there are 31 firms which represent a larger chunk of AIM by value, including unlikely names such as Smith & Williamson, better known for its accountancy expertise, and Deutsche Bank.

Among the accountants, there is no change in ranking: the top seven, all global businesses except for Baker Tilly, are head and shoulders above the rest in terms of client numbers and market capitalization of those clients. Across the top ten, client numbers are down slightly, while market capitalization is up 15 per cent. Meanwhile, Lawrence Graham, Norton Rose and Eversheds continue to head the league of leading AIM lawyers.

Leading brokers  No of clients  Clients' mkt cap (£m)
Seymour Pierce            82                 1,795
Arbuthnot Securities            65                 2,195
WH Ireland            60                    581
Evolution Securities            57                 2,587
Collins Stewart            56                 2,983
KBC Peel Hunt            55                 1,774
Numis            55                 2,816
Brewin Dolphin Securities            54                 1,170
Cenkos Securities            53                 2,648
Canaccord Adams            49                 1,793
Total          586               20,342

Leading nomads  No of clients  Clients' mkt cap (£m)
Seymour Pierce            90                 1,787
Arbuthnot Securities            59                 1,814
Grant Thornton            57                 2,285
WH Ireland            57                    555
Brewin Dolphin Securities            56                 1,241
Cenkos Securities            54                 2,535
Collins Stewart            51                 2,579
KBC Peel Hunt            48                 1,614
Evolution Securities            46                 1,392
Canaccord Adams            43                 1,428
Total          561               17,231

Leading auditors  No of clients  Clients' mkt cap (£m)
Grant Thornton           195                 4,968
KPMG           180                 7,411
BDO Stoy Hayward           145                 4,850
Pricewaterhouse Coopers           136                 5,471
Deloitte           129                 5,238
Baker Tilly           104                 2,012
Ernst & Young           100                 4,225
PKF             51                    987
Mazars             34                 1,466
Nexia Smith & Williamson             31                    393
Total        1,105               37,021

Leading solicitors  No of clients  Clients' mkt cap (£m)
Lawrence Graham              58                  2,805
Norton Rose              49                  1,619
Eversheds              40                     801
Memery Crystal              36                     339
Pinsent Masons              35                     658
Halliwells              35                     369
DLA Piper              33                     363
Field Fisher Waterhouse                32                  1,650
Berwin Leighton Paisner              32                     800
Nabarro              29                     828
Total            369                11,501

Data sourced from The AIM Guide (published by Vitesse Media) on 18/05/2009. Market capitalisation data correct at end of previous month. The AIM Adviser Index is intended as a snapshot of the market and Vitesse Media is not responsible for errors or omissions in the information provided by AIM-listed companies about their advisers.

The most active nomad for new issues was Seymour Pierce (see Table 2) , which helped raise £117.9 million for six clients – the same number
it chaperoned onto the market the year before. Its transactions included
a £45 million funding for Vietnam Property Fund and a £53 million placing for the aforementioned Resaca, with both getting away in the first seven months of 2008.

Cenkos and KBC Peel Hunt both completed five floats apiece, similar
to their 2007 totals, though Grant Thornton’s five was six less than it managed the year before. Collins Stewart, partly voluntarily, was another to bring fewer companies to AIM, its two floats as nomad being some way from the 15 AIM newcomers it schooled to market in 2007.

Investment fund specialist Fairfax I.S. oversaw the largest single transaction, the £116.6 million February float of Terra Catalyst Fund, while its one other client raised no funds.

The leading nomad in terms of client price performance was WH Ireland, whose single company, JSJS Designs, was introduced at 2p before quickly settling at a higher price. Collins Stewart’s two clients performed relatively strongly, with acquisitive shell Marwyn Materials up 55 per cent and Yangtze China Investment down a fairly modest eight per cent.

Among the leading brokers, KBC Peel Hunt and Seymour Pierce were jointly the most active with five new clients each.

Meanwhile, the most active accountants were Deloitte and KPMG, with nine clients each, followed by AIM specialists Baker Tilly and Grant Thornton with eight apiece.

This feature is a shortened version of the full research report, New Issues on AIM 2009. To order the report, call 020 7250 7056 or email

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