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London Stock Exchange Boss Defends Push To Win Aramco IPO

Xavier Rolet, the chief executive of the London Stock Exchange (LSE) Group has defended the bourse’s campaign for winning the secondary listing of Saudi Aramco that has drawn a lot of criticism in recent months.

Rolet, who joined PM Theresa May on a trip to Riyadh several months ago to try and convince Aramco to pick London for its international listing, told Bloomberg that there is no rule that requires companies applying for a premium segment listing to float at least 25 percent of their shares.

“There is not a 25 percent governance rule. There’s a liquidity test. There have been companies that are extremely large that have been allowed to list with less than 25 percent. Let’s not confuse liquidity with governance,” he said.

Rolet referred to criticism from various organizations that lashed out at the Financial Conduct Authority after it proposed a change in the premium segment listing rules that would accommodate Aramco’s plan to list much less than the 25-percent minimum.

The proposed changes also involved a rule relaxation with regard to what sovereign shareholders could do with their shares in the company – they could buy assets from the company or sell its asset without needing to consult with the independent shareholders. In addition, the FCA proposed that sovereign shareholders be exempt from rules restricting their powers in appointing board directors without the approval of independent shareholders.

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It seems that according to LSE’s chef, this does not constitute rule-bending. However, it’s safe to say that the proposed changes could very well reduce investor interest: it is unlikely that a lot of investors would be willing to have significantly reduced powers in favor of the sovereign shareholder, in this case Saudi Arabia. In other words, the changes that FCA proposed and the LSE clearly supports, might in fact betray their own purpose if they are ever approved.

The bourse chief’s defense follows an admission by the head of the FCA that the watchdog met with executives from Saudi Aramco several months prior to its proposal to change the listing rules for the London Stock Exchange to accommodate the oil giant.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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