As the longest government shutdown in US history rumbles on – sparked by Donald Trump’s insistence to build a border wall that Democrats in Congress have refused to grant funding for – Wall Street and Silicon Valley have been left in serious IPO limbo.
Staff at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have not worked since 27 December, meaning that long-awaited public listings are facing serious delays. These include some big names, such as Uber, Airbnb, and team collaboration tool Slack.
For companies that filed initial paperwork with the SEC at the end of 2018, we can only assume that the regulator’s sign-off won’t be coming until after the shutdown ends.
As Trump continues his very public standoff with House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, that doesn’t look likely anytime soon.
But for the UK, which was voted Forbes’ best country for business in 2018, and particularly for the City of London, with its well-deserved status of one of the world’s financial centres, the shutdown could well become an opportunity.
For larger companies, the City’s financial services sector offers unrivalled access to capital in Europe. It’s no surprise that the fourth quarter of 2018 saw the highest number of quarterly listings (25, at a total value of £4.4bn) in London since 2014.
The London Stock Exchange also has a key advantage with its specialist market for small companies, the Alternative Investment Market (Aim). This junior market has been around since 1995 and includes companies operating in more than 100 countries across 40 different sectors, with a combined market capitalisation of over £70bn.
Notably, for aspirational technology businesses which would otherwise be overlooked in America, Aim is geared for growth. It has an investor base that can provide targeted capital for these companies, alongside a large network of advisers that understand these businesses and their needs and concerns.
Crucially, given the current US situation, there are no government shutdowns here.
In the 30 years that I have worked in the City, London has always remained open for business, ready and waiting to serve quality companies requiring investment.
While negotiations over Britain’s departure from the EU have created uncertainty, the City continues to shine.
It hires the best and brightest graduates from across the country and beyond; has a string of airports and transport links that make it an international hub; and it is underpinned by a centuries-old legal system that is trusted the world over.
On top of that, London’s arts and culture scene – for those chief executives who fancy world-class music, theatre, dance, and galleries – is hard to beat. And you would be hard-pressed to find another capital as sports-obsessed.
Oh, and our parks and museums stay open, whatever challenges the government might be facing.
In short, London has an awful lot to shout about both inside and outside of the boardroom.
With the no sign of the US government shutdown abating, perhaps we should seize the opportunity and shout a little louder about the great opportunities on this side of the pond.