Exchange eases biotech listings

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THE STOCK EXCHANGE is planning to relax listing regulations for biotechnology and other research-based companies, following intense lobbying from the City and venture capital groups, writes Neil Thapar.

Formal proposals are understood to be under discussion by the Exchange's quotations committee and are likely to be announced within the next few weeks.

The present regulations, brought in last December, allow biotechnology firms with at least two drugs in pre-clinical trial to float on the stock market even if they do not have a three-year trading record - a pre-requisite for other types of company that are seeking a public quote.

But directors of biotechnology firms cannot sell shares in their companies for at least two years after flotation and must show three years' employment with their firms.

However, it is understood that these conditions will be relaxed, enabling a broader range of research-based companies to join the market.

Sources suggest firms engaged in the development of veterinary drugs or diagnostic products for decontaminating foodstuffs will be brought under the scope of the new rules.

The changes are being considered after heavy lobbying from both stockbrokers and venture capital firms keen to float more scientific research companies.

Dozens more companies may become eligible for listing if the expected changes are approved.