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Commission welcomes agreement on new rules to improve SME access to capital markets

Source: European Commission

The Commission welcomes the political agreement reached today by the European Parliament and Member States on new rules that will further help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to finance their growth, innovate, and create jobs.

The European Parliament and Council still have to formally approve the rules.

A key element of the Capital Markets Union (CMU) agenda, the new rules willensure that smaller businesses in the EU have access to diversified sources of financing at each stage of their development. In particular, the revised rules will make it cheaper and simpler for SMEs to access public markets through the so-called 'SME Growth Markets', a new category of trading venue dedicated to small issuers.Listing on stock exchanges can give a significant boost to small and medium enterprises, including a reduced dependence on bank funding, a broader investor base, easier access to additional equity capital and debt finance, and a higher public profile and brand recognition.

Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: “Given their importance for the EU economy, we need to make sure that SMEs enjoy the best possible financing conditions to grow and innovate. Today's political agreement is an important step in making the rules on SME's access to capital markets fit for that very purpose. These measures will enable SMEs to develop and prosper without being hindered by unnecessary costs and red tape, while preserving a high level of market integrity and investor protection".

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, said: "I wish to thank Parliament and Council for acting swiftly to reach a political agreement which demonstrates how important SMEs are for the Capital Markets Union. The measures agreed will help funnel more investment into Europe's SMEs, fostering innovation, jobs and growth".

The proposal provides for targeted amendments to two key pieces of financial services legislation, namely the Market Abuse Regulation (MAR) and the Prospectus Regulation.

The amendments to the rules on market abuse aim to strike a balance between cutting red tape for small businesses while safeguarding market integrity and investor protection. The revised framework also creates a common set of rules on liquidity contracts for SME Growth Markets in all Member States while giving national competent authorities sufficient flexibility to tailor market practices to local conditions. This will ensure minimum liquidity and reduce volatility of SME shares.

The proposed changes to the Prospectus Regulation will allow issuers in SME Growth Markets to produce a lighter prospectus when transferring to a regulated market (i.e. a main stock exchange), which can lead to significant cost-saving for growing SMEs.

Next Steps

Further technical work will follow this political agreement so that the European Parliament and the Council can formally adopt the final texts.

Background

In May 2018, the European Commission proposed to adopt more proportionate rules to support SME listing while safeguarding investor protection and market integrity. The initiative focuses on “SME growth markets”, a new category of multilateral trading facilities created by the Markets in financial instruments directive (MiFID II) as of January 2018 to facilitate access to capital for SMEs, i.e. companies that have an average market capitalisation of less than €200 million.

It is part of a broader set of measures announced in 2017 in the context of the CMU Mid-Term Review, and aimed at making it easier for high-growth SMEs to access public capital markets (the SME Listing Package).

The initiative includes two texts:

a proposal for a regulation amending the market abuse regulation and the prospectus regulation
a delegated regulation bringing technical adjustments to MiFID II, adopted by the Commission in December 2018.

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