US listings cause concern

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A STREAM of young European bio-technology and life sciences companies seeking stock market listings on Nasdaq in the US is causing mounting concern.

The European Commission fears the high-technology industries of the future could end up being owned by US investors because of the illiquidity of secondary stock markets in Europe and the difficulty of raising finance for growth.

Dr Albert Strub, director responsible for research and development, technology transfer and innovation at the EC Commission, said increasing numbers of investors were selling their participation in European firms, especially technology-driven ones, on US over-the-counter markets, leading to 'an Americanisation of these businesses and in some cases the relocation of their headquarters to the US'.

The solution, advocated by Dr Strub and the European Venture Capital Association, is the creation of a new market for young companies on a pan-European basis.

The urgency of the task is all the greater because of the impending close of the USM in the UK and the liquidity problems of the Deuxieme Marche in France and the parallel market in the Netherlands.

EVCA's business development committee is looking at a range of options including a screen-based system similar to Nasdaq's. It is talking to Nasdaq about possible areas of co-operation.

Matts Andersson, chairman of EVCA and of the Finnish venture capital company Sitra, said: 'We have to create a main market for young and growing companies, not one viewed as secondary.'

The Commission had made it plain that legislative and regulatory differences between European countries should not be viewed as obstacles in the quest for a European market.