AIM reaches a landmark as its 1,000th member lists

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The Independent Online

The Alternative Investment Market, London's junior share market that is home to Majestic Wine and Birmingham City football club, reached a milestone yesterday when its membership reached 1,000 companies.

The Alternative Investment Market, London's junior share market that is home to Majestic Wine and Birmingham City football club, reached a milestone yesterday when its membership reached 1,000 companies.

Fittingly, the latest to list on AIM was the Singapore-based AEC Education, reflecting the market's growing international profile as it approaches its tenth anniversary next year.

Returning from a marketing trip to China, AIM's head Martin Graham said: "We think there is great scope to expand AIM's international reach and attract more companies, not just from the high-growth markets of the Asia-Pacific region, but also from continental Europe."

Slightly more than one-tenth of the exchange's members are international companies. Mat Wootton, AIM's deputy head, said: "We want to become a pan-European growth market and have seen a lot of interest from Europe. Neuer Markt (in Germany) is closed so there isn't an equivalent market in Europe." AIM is also targeting India and Russia, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

AIM, along with its smaller rival Ofex, came into being in 1995 when the London Stock Exchange (LSE) abandoned the old matched-bargains facility, to cater for companies that were unable or unwilling to join the main market. Ofex is now run by Simon Brickles, the former chief executive of AIM.

Since its launch, a total of £14.4bn has been raised on AIM through new issues as well as further fund raising. Four of the 10 companies that listed on AIM's first day, 19 June 1995, still trade on it today: Athelney Trust, Dawson Holdings, Formscan and Lorien. With 324 new members so far this year, AIM has outshone Ofex, which a few weeks ago came close to running out of cash but was rescued by a last-minute deal put together by Numis, its broker.

Since AIM opened, 97 companies have moved up to the LSE's main market. Mr Wootton said: "It's fantastic when they do that. They've learned their trade and they've grown." But over the past five years close to 200 cash-strapped firms have also transferred from the main exchange to AIM to take advantage of its lower fees, more lightly regulated regime and favoured tax status.

AIM's members range vastly in size: from a market capitalisation of £190,000 to £1.1bn (Canada's First Calgary Petroleums), with the average market value put at between £25m and £30m. There are 33 industry sectors represented, with oil and gas the largest by market value and support services the biggest by number. In October, AIM got its first bank: The Islamic Bank of Britain.

Mr Wootton was confident about future growth, saying: "We've got critical mass, maturity, and have achieved trust."

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