Paris takes aim at City of London with plan for English-language market
hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Oct 6 14:22:41 UTC 2007
[image: International Herald Tribune] <http://www.iht.com/>
*Paris takes aim at City of London with plan for English-language market*
*By Stephen Castle
Friday, October 5, 2007
*PARIS:* Plans to make Paris a more attractive financial center and draw
capital away from the City of London were announced Friday as part of a
drive to promote business-friendly policies in France.
Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, said she would set up a new
unit at the Euronext exchange in Paris with a lighter regulatory regime,
permitting financial information to be submitted only in English.
The plans are part of measures designed to "attract capital" and "reinforce
the role of Paris for European and international listings," her office said
in a statement.
They come at a time of turbulence in London as the City absorbs the
aftershocks of the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States. The Daily
Telegraph reported Friday that HSBC, the largest British bank, was warning
of the potential for investor flight from Britain in the coming months if a
slowdown in growth reduced confidence in the country's economic management.
But the project is also part of a larger strategy pioneered by the new
French president, Nicholas Sarkozy, to re-energize the economy and lighten
regulatory burdens on businesses. Sarkozy visited London during his campaign
for the presidency, telling the large French expatriate population there
that their example in "one of the greatest French cities" was appreciated -
but that they should come home after he was elected.
Lagarde, a fluent English-speaker who spent much of her career at a U.S. law
firm, has set up a "high committee" to discuss how to reinforce Paris as a
For stock listings under the new system there would be no requirement to
file financial information in French with the Bulletin des Annonces Légales
Obligatoires as at present. Instead, the documentation will have to meet
European requirements, which allow reporting in English. French companies
that are already listed will be able to avoid duplicating their reporting
requirements, as required at present.
Despite the fallout in London from the subprime mortgage crisis, analysts
stressed that Paris would find it difficult to make a significant dent on
London's position as Europe's financial capital.
Heiko Frantzen, senior analyst at the financial services department at Sal.
Oppenheim in Frankfurt, said that there was a "clear a group of issuers and
investors who prefer lower regulatory requirements so it makes sense to open
such a market."
But competing with the City of London, second only to New York as a global
financial center, will be difficult, he said. "It could be that francophone
companies in France, the Netherlands, Belgium or Portugal prefer to be
listed at the French market," Frantzen said. "The question is whether other
international companies will find it more attractive to be listed in Paris
than in London."
The City of London pointed to its Global Financial Center index, released
this week, which rates the competitiveness of the world's top 50 financial
cities. The report ranks London and New York as the only two truly global
financial centers, well ahead of Hong Kong, Singapore, Zurich and then
Frankfurt. According to the research, conducted by the Z/Yen Group Limited
for the City of London Corporation, Paris ranks 11th.
A spokesman for Euronext in Paris, who cannot be named under company policy,
said it "welcomes the decisions taken by the high committee which will
permit Paris to reinforce its attractiveness in Europe and internationally
for new listings."
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