Temporary reprieve expected for USM

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The Independent Online
THE UNLISTED Securities Market is likely to receive a temporary reprieve of a few months, allowing more companies to join the second tier this year.

The market, set up about 12 years ago to attract smaller companies, is facing almost certain closure by the Stock Exchange due to dwindling demand and lack of investor interest.

However, it is understood that the exchange is considering extending the June deadline after which new companies will not be allowed to obtain a USM quote.

The USM has become less attractive since EC regulations forced the exchange to relax the entry requirement for a full listing. The changes have led many City professionals to regard the junior market as obsolete.

However, some interest groups are pressing for a new second-tier market to give small companies continued access to equity investors. Today is the final deadline for submitting proposals to the exchange.

Although about 50 submissions have been made, the exchange says the suggestions have been 'disappointing'. Cisco, the smaller companies lobby group, wants the exchange to set up a renamed USM and to relax further the entry requirements and rules governing acquisitions.

Robert Drummond, chairman of the British Venture Capital Association, would prefer a new market similar to Nasdaq, the New York over-the-counter market.