The Alberta Securities Commission recently released two major reports: its own Annual Report for 2017 and a report on the current state of the province’s capital markets. Collectively, the two publications provide significant market insight from both a regulatory and an economic perspective. As they both note, Alberta-based issuers account for 23% of Canada’s aggregate market capitalization, making the province the second largest of the country’s capital markets, after Ontario, by that measure.
The ASC Annual Report
The ASC’s initiatives over the past year include participation in CSA projects relating to regulatory burden reduction, fintech and climate change disclosure, in addition an initiative to smooth the way for the increased use of crowdfunding. On the enforcement end, the Commission cited its Exempt Market Dealer sweep and the establishment, in co-operation with the RCMP, of the Joint Serious Offences Team (JSOT), which laid its first charges under the Criminal Code in February 2017. The ASC also noted that it is emphasizing proactive enforcement, in part because after-the-fact recovery of funds is often difficult (for instance, almost 100% of recent disgorgement orders have proven to be uncollectible). In his message, Chair Stan Magidson also underscored the Government of Alberta’s continuing preference for continued harmonization via the ASC’s participation in the CSA over any form of “national regulator”.
The Alberta Capital Market Report
The ASC’s 47-page analysis of the state of the capital markets offers a snapshot of Alberta’s economic situation as the province adjusts to the ongoing reality of low oil prices. The picture that emerges is not black-and-white: while there are 31 percent fewer public markets issuers under the ASC’s primary jurisdiction than there were in 2012, and 15 percent fewer in the prospectus-exempt market, total financing activity jumped to $37.3 billion (CDN) in 2016, versus $27.6 billion in 2012 (although prospectus-exempt market activity is still considerably beneath 2012 levels). Oil and gas continues to account for over half (56 percent) of market capitalization, with another 22 percent coming from the utilities/pipelines sector.
The Capital Market Report includes many tables, graphs and analyses that effectively convey the current profile of Alberta’s corporate sector, notably its balance between small, medium and large reporting issuers (as compared to British Columbia, where a solid majority of issuers have market capitalizations under $10 million). As it notes, however, this balance is partly the result of a decrease of about 35 percent in the numbers of small (<$50M) issuers in Alberta’s oil and gas sector between 2015 and 2016.
The above offers only a small sample of the contents of the two Reports. We highly recommend the Capital Market Report, in particular, to anyone wanting a big-picture overview of the current state of the market in Alberta in a broader Canadian context.