EU set to ease IPO rules to lure $65.6 billion in deep-tech funding

The EU Listing Act will allow founders and families to retain control post-listing, while raising a larger amount of funds. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (BLOOMBERG) - The European Union wants to increase the number of deep-tech start-ups in Europe by attracting €45 billion (S$65.6 billion) in private money and making it easier for founders to keep control of a firm once it goes public.

The EU Listing Act, which is set to be put forward in the second half of this year, will allow "founders and families to retain control post-listing, while raising a larger amount of funds and enjoying the benefits associated to listing", according to a draft of a new digital innovation strategy seen by Bloomberg News.

The EU has far fewer deep-tech firms than the United States and China. The commission attributed this to the "fragmented and risk-averse nature" of venture capital markets in Europe, while traditional bank products like loans play a bigger role in financing start-ups than alternative resources like equity funding.

"Europe needs to draw in institutional investors to invest in deep-tech innovations," Ms Mariya Gabriel, the commissioner in charge of research and innovation, said last week at a European Innovation Area Summit.

She added: "Increasing the proportion of European capital invested in innovative companies and start-ups is one of our main objectives. This can result in companies relocating their corporate headquarters to Europe."

The European Commission's strategy to be unveiled on Tuesday (July 5) includes:

• A listing Act to simplify listing requirements for companies, which may also propose that countries across the EU match their regulations regarding dual-class share structures. At present, every stock exchange in Europe sets its own rules

• Allowing countries to use state aid for testing and experimentation infrastructure

• Regulatory sandboxes, so start-ups can experiment with more flexible regulations, with a specific test-bed focused on renewable hydrogen and commission-backed artificial intelligence experimentation facilities

• Creating a working group to help start-ups offer stock options to new employees

The EU is also "losing the global race for talent", the commission wrote in the draft, with researchers and academics moving to the US. The commission will launch a talent initiative to find one million people to work in deep tech, backed by €20 million from the EU budget to be topped up with more money from public and private organisations. The commission will also launch talks with EU countries to attract talent from third countries, especially by making it easier to obtain start-up visas.

Few women are represented in deep-tech start-ups, the commission wrote. Female-led tech start-ups raised only 1.7 per cent of capital in European venture capital markets in 2020, citing Atomico's 2021 State of European Tech report. The commission will launch a number of initiatives to address this, including a gender and diversity index to collect data on women and under-represented groups.

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