After such a dreadful year, participants in AIM are doing more than their fair share of navel gazing. Yesterday Growth Company Investor, the magazine, launched its take on the new issues market amid a welter of depressing statistics. Only 70 companies joined AIM last year – 32 per cent of the number in 2007 and only 16 per cent of the number in the bumper 2005.
The nomads, which are obliged to continue monitoring the performance of the companies they represent, are having a terrible time. Only 32 out of 70 took any part in last year's initial public offerings and introductions.
Wedlake Bell, a law firm that acts for both nomads and companies, is to run a seminar to discuss the market's problems next month entitled "The Perfect Storm". Tim Bird, one of its partners says the fall in the number of listings means that many nomads are finding it harder to cross-subsidise their monitoring work.
"Given current stock market conditions, the LSE will be particularly sensitive about protecting the reputation of the AIM market, so it is likely to be very strict in ensuring that all the AIM regulations are adhered to" he warns. If shareholders feel they have been misled, "they are likely to look for someone to blame and nomads are easy targets". Mazars, another AIM law firm, late last year sent out questionnaires to 1,200 AIM companies and 100 advisory firms canvassing their opinions on the future of the market. Replies came from 125 companies and 35 firms, highlighting concerns about liquidity, lack of free float and a perceived lack of quality companies.
Unsurprisingly, they agreed that there were too many companies on AIM, although at the rate these are leaving that might not be the case for long.
But unexpectedly 80 per cent of the companies – but not the advisers – believed that inactive companies on the market should be transferred to an over-the-counter market or bulletin board. Where is Rule 535 when you need it?
Published in the Financial Times, 23 January 2009