Daimler defends New York listing ambition: Critics told 'we can no longer treat shareholders as if they were cheeky and dumb'

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The Independent Online
DAIMLER-BENZ, under attack from other big German companies over its decision to seek a listing on the New York Stock Exchange, yesterday returned the fire, saying other German firms would have to adjust to the more open accounting practices used in America and Britain.

'We can no longer treat our shareholders as if they were cheeky and dumb - dumb for buying shares, and cheeky for expecting something in return,' said Gerhard Liener, chief financial officer. 'We must begin treating our shareholders like customers who need our products.'

Bayer, the German chemical giant, was one of several companies that have recently criticised Daimler's listing decision as 'capitulation to the US regulatory authorities'. Mr Liener's counterpart at Bayer, Helmut Loehr, said German business had once been united in its refusal to bow to the demands of the US Securities and Exchange Commission regarding financial disclosures, but that Daimler had broken ranks.

Mr Liener said that German companies looking to expand would be better advised to raise capital on international stock exchanges rather than trying to raise debt. The Daimler finance chief denied that there had been any 'unconditional capitulation' to the SEC, which was now 'showing flexibility that had not been there before'. German companies would have to stop being so cautious and secretive, and accept the fact that international stock exchange practice would be set in New York and London, and not in Frankfurt.

'They have a much more open accounting system which is far more shareholder-friendly. German accounting is marked by an exaggerated caution that tries to cover possible future losses,' he said. Daimler announced on 30 March that it will publish much more detailed financial information, in line with SEC requirements, in order to become the first German company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.