By David Milliken
LONDON (Reuters) -British finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday he wanted to make it more attractive for companies to list in Britain, at a time when private equity firms have sought to take some well-known names private.
Sunak, speaking at a tech conference in London, said interest in British businesses from overseas investors, including private equity companies, reflected well on their view of the wider economy, but regulators did need to check whether some takeovers were in Britain’s longer-term interest.
Britain has historically taken a relaxed view of foreign takeovers but the purchase of chip design company ARM in 2016 by Japan’s SoftBank raised concerns, and regulators are currently questioning its sale to U.S. company Nvidia Corp.
Asked if he would prefer to see ARM listed as an independent company in Britain, Sunak said he could not comment specifically due to the ongoing regulatory process.
“Whether it is ARM or anyone else, I want to make (Britain) an incredibly attractive place for companies to raise capital,” Sunak told reporters.
Britain has already taken steps to allow structures such as special purpose acquisition companies and dual-class listings, which had caused some firms to prefer to list in the United States. Sunak also said he was seeking to make it simpler for companies to produce prospectuses for initial public offerings.
“Next year when we legislate we are going to look at things around prospectuses … how we simplify the process of companies issuing IPO prospectuses and what they can put in there without specific legal liabilities,” he said.
But Sunak said that in general, Britons should welcome foreign investors’ appetite to buy British businesses and that private equity did not represent a danger.
“If international investors, whoever they are, are keen to invest their capital in the UK, that is something that is good news for our economy. And that’s what you’re seeing,” he said.
British supermarket Morrisons is currently at the centre of a takeover battle between two U.S. private equity firms, creating fears of job losses.
Separately, Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority has said that in future it wants to take a closer look at foreign tech giants’ purchases of much smaller firms in case they looked like an attempt to snuff out competition.
Sunak said this approach was reasonable and should not close the door on exit opportunities for early investors.
“I don’t think people need to be that anxious about it,” he said. “No one should come away from that thinking we are against that activity.”
(Reporting by David Milliken; editing by Costas Pitas and Jane Merriman)