FCA proposes amendment for sovereign-controlled companies

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However, current United Kingdom rules would make it hard for the company to list on the London Stock Exchange as now premium listings include the requirement that 25% of a company's shares are floated on the exchange.

Aramco is planning to list 5% of its shares and the FCA plan would allow state-controlled or "sovereign" firms to side-step rules that would otherwise oblige them to float at least a 25% stake to gain a premium status.

It has proposed enabling such companies, which may the subject of major privatisation transactions, to choose the higher standards of premium listing, rather than standard listing.

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But industry figures believe that if approved the proposals will pave the way for the controversial floatation of Saudi Aramco, the $2trn Saudi Arabian oil company, on the London Stock Exchange.

Saudi Aramco is preparing for what could be the world's largest initial public offering (IPO). Riyadh calculations valued the company at US$2 trillion, but the price environment in oil and the historical lack of transparency with regard to Aramco's assets and operations are putting a question mark over that figure. However, according to The Sunday Times, a subtle intervention by the FCA has softened investors' opposition to a possible Aramco listing in London.

However, some fund managers have hit out at the move.

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Interestingly, observers expected the LSE to initiate any changes in the rules of the game-the bourse is a favorite for the listing.

The few existing listed companies in the original premium segment that would be eligible for the new category would be entitled to apply to transfer their listing.

"Sovereign owners are different from private sector individuals or companies - both in their motivations and their nature. Investors have long recognised this and capital markets are well adapted to assess the treatment of other investors by sovereign countries", Bailey said. The London Stock Exchange's premium listing segment has stricter rules and reporting requirements than a standard listing.

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The FCA has set a deadline of Oct 13 for comment on the proposals, which are part of a wider review it is undertaking into Britain's listing rules but were brought forward because it said it thought there was a gap in its current rules.

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