Monday, May 15, 2006

It's a Question of AIM

There's lots of focus these days on the potential for American technology companies to consider listing on the AIM (Alternative Investment Market) of the London Stock Exchange. This attention stems from a few things: the potential for an AIM listing to substitute for a mezzanine private equity financing; and the desire for companies to achieve a level of liquidity that is not available as long as the NASDAQ IPO market is so barren.

Since we work with an AIM listed company (PolyFuel --, we have had the tremendous opportunity to observe this burgeoning phenomenon first-hand. It would be inappropriate to comment on PolyFuel's experience. However, having launched and worked with nearly 100 technology companies through the years, the AIM appears to have great promise for the right American companies.

I just went to a luncheon sponsored by ThinkEquity ( today on AIM listing and what is involved. But I find it surprising that at this forum, along with nearly every other conversation I have about an AIM listing, there is little or no awareness of the restrictions American companies have in terms of their communications in the U.S. It boils down to a simple concept: American companies listed on AIM and not registered in certain ways with the SEC can do nothing to promote their stock in this country. The implementation of this is open to interpretation; and, of course, the restriction is not on normal activities in the course of doing business. But it does take some sophisticated, experienced communications expertise to help an AIM listed company communicate as it needs to in the U.S. without conflicting with these regulations. This doesn't mean it's not possible, it just means that some thought and consideration needs to go into it.

But communicating in the U.S. is critical for American technology companies. Of course much of their markets are here. But, as importantly, in many cases, the perceptions around the world about a company are formed based on U.S. communications.


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