A major European stock exchange is trying to bolster its equity listings business by making a play for Canadian companies.
London Stock Exchange PLC has added three new issuers with ties to Canada so far in 2017, bringing its total to 22 such companies. Most of these companies are interlisted, meaning their shares trade in both London and Toronto.
To be sure, 22 listings are a drop in the bucket for the LSE, which boasted a roster of more than 2,260 companies at the end of last year. But the LSE is taking notice of Canada now because it has gained more corporate issuers from the country since Jan. 11 than it did during all of 2016. The prospect of more listings from Canadian companies is occurring as the LSE confronts waning enthusiasm for initial public offerings in London since last summer's Brexit vote.
"We think there are really big opportunities in Canada," said Sarah Baker, the company's head of North American strategic engagement. "If you're an ambitious Canadian company and you're thinking globally, then London is the best place because of its access to international investors."
The LSE's attempt to make inroads comes as many of the world's largest stock exchanges, including Toronto-based TMX Group Ltd., are pushing beyond their borders in search of foreign listings to fuel growth. After a wave of mega-mergers, the business is more transnational than ever before, forcing exchanges to think about ways they can scale across asset classes and geographies to stay relevant. The LSE is hoping its proposed merger with Germany's Deutsche Boerse AG will help it compete against large U.S. and Asian rivals.
Ms. Baker, who is based in New York, is optimistic that the LSE will be able to build on this momentum north of the border. In the past, Canadian issuers that have chosen to dual list their shares in another country have often looked south to the large U.S. market by listing on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq. Ms. Baker says the LSE is keeping in touch with Canadian brokers and law firms in its network to see whether any of their Canadian clients would benefit from tapping into British capital markets.
The listings of public companies are sought after by stock exchanges around the world, in part because they generate a yearly fee that is steady, recurring and predictable revenue. This contrasts with trading-related fees, which are more volatile and for which traditional exchanges face fiercer competition from a slew of alternative trading systems.
Toronto's TMX is trying to make its own global push as it strives to make its own gains in Britain and also in other countries, including Israel. It says that 14 of its issuers are headquartered in Britain, according to data it compiled at the end of last year. There are close ties between Toronto and London. In 2011, the two firms had agreed to a merger that would have seen them become a transatlantic powerhouse, but the transaction ultimately fell through. "It's not a bad idea for many of these companies to have a listing, a profile, a brand in the U.K., as well as in Canada," said Ungad Chadda, the head of capital formation for stocks at the TMX. "We think that's quite common. Usually with clients, it's not an either-or" decision.
Executives at the two Canadian issuers that have recently listed in London said the LSE helped them raise funds by affording them access to a whole new set of investors that aren't currently shopping for these kinds of stocks in Canada.
"Companies don't have much loyalty to exchanges," said Alan Friedman, co-founder of Eco (Atlantic) Oil & Gas Ltd. "They have loyalty to investors, to trading and to liquidity. They go where the interest is."
Eco, a small Toronto-based oil and gas exploration company with interests in Namibia and Guyana, has struggled to raise additional capital in Canada, where Mr. Friedman says money for small-cap offshore drillers has all but dried up. Potential investors in Europe, however, expressed a preference to own stocks that are listed on an exchange that's closer to home as opposed to on the TSX Venture Exchange, Mr. Friedman said.
TSXV-listed Zenith Energy Ltd., a small oil and gas production company with activities in Argentina, Italy and Azerbaijan, had been on the path to dual listing its stock in London since November, 2015. It had to raise money from friends and family just to be able to afford the steep professional fees and travel costs to and from London, where European investors are more willing at this time to take a chance on the company's vision, chief executive Andrea Cattaneo said. "There are more interested parties [in London] and more capital for very small companies," he said. "It's worth a trip. It's worth trying."