At a time where investors are not only seeking reliable returns from established companies as well as placing a greater focus on superior returns from the stars of the future, Aquis Stock Exchange (AQSE) is looking to bridge the gap with its modern exchange that is suitable for a business era that is conducive to more disruptive companies than ever before.
As a listed company itself, Aquis Stock Exchange (AQX ticker) has seen approval in its approach and applicability to the modern era with its share price soaring by over 100 percent in the past year – accruing record market share in pan-European trading and raising over £85m this year for high growth companies on its exchange.
Now, as part of the ShareBuyers’ going for growth series, we catch up with Alasdair Haynes, CEO of Aquis Exchange PLC to discuss everything from the factors behind the continued success of Aquis and why investors should consider exposure to companies on AQSE as part of their portfolios.
Firstly, please can you provide an overview of Aquis?
Aquis Stock Exchange (AQSE) is one of only two regulated equity exchanges in the UK. It focuses on raising capital for new-economy growth companies by offering them a fast and cost-efficient pathway to IPO.
AQSE has put a number of measures in place to protect its market, reduce spreads, boost liquidity and ensure that retail investors have access. By segmenting the growth market into the Apex and Access sections, AQSE provides an appropriate and proportional regulatory framework for new entrants to flourish under.
What are some of the key similarities and differences between companies found on Aquis and the London Stock Exchange?
In terms of similarities we are a recognised investment exchange operating a growth market and a main market. Securities admitted to the AQSE Growth Market are qualifying investments for ISAs and exempt from SDRT. Issuers are also eligible for the full range of unquoted company tax reliefs, including EIS and reliefs from capital gains and inheritance tax [just like with AIM stocks].
We operate two segments on our growth market to help investors identify earlier stage and more established businesses.
We regulate appropriately for each and apply the growth prospectus to our upper Apex segment providing additional rigour and comfort. Our admission process and rules are straightforward and designed to support our companies to achieve their growth ambitions.
How easy is it for investors to trade companies on Aquis?
Retail investors trade in the usual way through a variety of platforms. The leading on line brokers offering access to AQSE shares include Barclays, AJ Bell and Interactive Investors. We are working hard to extend this coverage further to ensure trading is as easy and accessible as possible.
Since AQSE introduced its market making scheme at the start of the year, spreads have greatly reduced – by 50% – including in retail size and at least two market makers offer two way prices in each Apex stock at all times.
Aquis is also known as the ‘home of growth companies’ and recently announced plans to raise £100m for growth companies. Can you talk us through some success stories and the overall vision?
So far 16 companies have raised around £85m on our markets this year. 20 sectors are represented and our pipeline of new businesses coming through is the strongest it’s ever been. Samarkand Group recently raised £17m in a significantly over-subscribed fund raising with institutional support, and joined the Apex segment of our market in March this year with the new growth prospectus (a slimmed down version of the full prospectus). It’s market cap is now £80m. Semper Fortis esports joined our Access segment this year raising £2.5m and with a market cap of just over £4m in April – it’s now at nearly £11m.
We provide a modern market place for modern businesses and our rules are appropriate for the company size and stage of development. We pride ourselves on building strong relationships with our issuers and advisory community and providing the ongoing support they need to grow.
Our unique market making scheme (which has reduced spreads by 50%) and our short-selling ban are just a couple of the innovative ways we are disrupting and changing capital markets for good.
For new and perhaps existing investors to Aquis, what would be your ‘elevator pitch’ to summarise why companies on Aquis are worth considering for their portfolios?
AQSE is a truly exciting marketplace for investors to explore. The focus for recent entrants is on new economy stocks such as e-commerce, medicinal cannabis and blockchain. However, AQSE is also home to a number of very well established traditional companies such as brewers Shepherd Neame and Adnams and award-winning Chapel Down winery.
The changes AQSE has made to the structure of the market means investors, institutions as well as individuals, can buy into AQSE stocks with ease and confidence: our regulatory standards are high and our liquidity is guaranteed by an innovative market making scheme. AQSE is a ‘new’ exchange for a new era and we see ourselves as very much as Nasdaq was to the US in the late twentieth/early twenty-first century: we want to be the Nasdaq of Europe in the next several decades.
Please note: this discussion with Alasdair Haynes CEO of Aquis Exchange PLC forms part of the ShareBuyers’ going for growth series – helping companies with high growth potential to share their growth story. It is not a recommendation to buy or sell shares in AQX or companies listed on its exchange.