Williams Slams UK Listing Rules

For Williams F1, the British motor racing team, London seemed the obvious choice for an initial public offering. Williams, however, plumped for a Frankfurt listing instead – and now we know why.

The reason is that the regulatory obligations in London would be ‘impossible’ for the team to operate under, explains Adam Parr, chief executive of Williams Grand Prix Holdings, in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph.

If it listed in London, Williams would fall under IFRS obligations to disclose transactions with a single customer worth more than 10 per cent of revenues, notes Parr. ‘We have confidentiality provisions, not just with Formula One, but also with partners that would just make that impossible,’ he says.

The disclosure requirement – which came into effect 12 months ago – makes London a less attractive listing venue, adds Parr. ‘I think it’s a ludicrous requirement and I don’t see how it benefits shareholders. Those companies to which it applies will be looking at their options,’ he says.

In Frankfurt, on the other hand, Williams can operate under GAAP accounting standards, which don’t require disclosure of this information. The team considered listing in the US, Singapore and Australia, where IFRS is also not required, but in the end chose Frankfurt for its European investor base.

‘I have now met 100 institutions and not one of them has raised this point,’ added Parr. ‘They’re perfectly comfortable with a company of our nature and size being on the Entry Standard of Frankfurt.’

Williams’ rejection will be a blow to the London Stock Exchange (LSE), although the bourse has bigger Frankfurt-related problems to worry about right now, following the news that Deutsche Börse and NYSE Euronext are in advanced talks about a merger.

The talks have upstaged the LSE’s own merger plans with TMX Group, the Canadian exchange operator.

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