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In the equity capital markets, Brexit continues to have a dampening effect on IPOs; proceeds from large flotations in the UK fell sharply in Q1 2018 compared to Q1 2017. Nonetheless, some sectors – particularly fintech and biotech – are seeing increasing activity, and natural resources are coming back into vogue after years in the doldrums. Partly as a result of market volatility, dual-track IPOs (where companies go down the M&A route and the IPO route simultaneously) are the order of the day, and as the UK property market – particularly in London – continues to attract foreign investment, IPOs by real estate investment trusts (REITs) are increasingly common. The London-Shanghai Stock Connect initiative, a trading partnership between the London Stock Exchange and the Shanghai Stock Exchange, is expected to be in place by late 2018, though it may not provide the significant fillip to inter-market trader activity its champions are predicting.

The AIM arena continues to be a key source of mandates for law firms, notably in relation to IPOs, secondary fundraisings and AIM-related M&A. 2017 saw an uptick in new issues; there were 80, compared to 64 in 2016, and activity has continued apace in 2018. 2017 ended with there being 960 companies listed on the exchange. Although this represents the lowest number of listed companies on AIM since 2003, the aggregate market value of AIM-listed companies has actually being going up in recent years.

FIRMS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Vanderpump & Sykes

Vanderpump & Sykes LLP is a practice in Enfield, Middlesex with a high profile in the area, where it has been established since 1899. There are presently five equity partners, and three salaried partners with 16 solicitors in all. We converted to LLP status on 1st May 2011 in order to take best advantage of the opportunities arising from the new regulations and to enable us to operate under a modern corporate structure. The firm is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and is a member of The Law Society.

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In the private equity sphere, the market has been characterised by funds having record levels of dry powder to deploy (needing to put it to work), and there being a high level of competition from other strategic investors; the market for quality, high-value assets remains as strong as ever. 2017 was a banner year for dealmaking, and this trend has continued into 2018. It remains to be seen, however, how long current levels of deal volumes can be sustained for, with sellers pushing for higher multiples.

Elsewhere, tax reform has been a major theme. In 2017, the US Senate approved the most sweeping overhaul of the US tax system in more than 30 years, with a major change being the reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. This has created a challenge within the EU, where member states have been engaged in a longstanding debate as to whether or not to harmonise minimum corporate tax rates across the bloc in order to prevent tax avoidance; a debate framed by the OECD base erosion and profit sharing (BEPS) initiative. Alongside authorities in France and Germany, the UK is looking to get more global companies with operations in the EU (including US technology companies) to pay more tax. The confluence of increased media scrutiny, domestic and international political pressures and BEPS has led businesses to move away from more traditional structured products in favour of managing tax risk by structuring their operations to appease an emboldened HMRC.

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