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UK revisits IPO rules to entice tech founders

The UK government said Thursday it will review the rules around initial public offerings as it looks to make post-Brexit Britain more appealing to tech founders seeking to take their companies public.

The review includes measures that would give founders more influence over their companies upon listing, including the allowance of dual-class share structures that give some shareholders—notably founders—more voting rights per share than others.

Free float rules are also under review. Currently, companies listing on the London Stock Exchange must make 25% of their shares public. A lower free float threshold would let entrepreneurs maintain more control after going public.

Not everyone is a fan of the changes suggested.

“Traditionally, many institutional investors are wary of dual-class structures in the UK because they value the principle of one share, one vote,” said Claire Keast-Butler, a London-based partner with law firm Cooley who herself has been advocating for the use of dual-class shares. “They think that it is potentially bad for corporate governance because they’re putting too much power in the hands of a founder, or founders, rather than the shareholders as a whole.”

Keast-Butler said there has been a lot of resistance in the investor community to changing the system. Many fear rule changes could make founders less accountable. A case study often pointed to by critics is WeWork. The co-working giant imploded as it was preparing to go public in 2019, largely due to founder Adam Neumann taking advantage of a multi-class voting structure to wield outsized influence and thus eliminating any checks and balances on the company’s governance.


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How Government guidelines are getting UK firms back to business safely

As the restrictions of lockdown have begun to ease, many more of us are returning to the workplace. To help companies get back up and running as safely as possible, the Government has put together Covid-19 secure guidelines.

If you and your staff can’t work from home and do need to return to the workplace to do your job, employers have been introducing a range of measures to reduce the risk of infection.

Government guidelines

These include cleaning, hand washing and an increase in hygiene procedures, with hand sanitisers around the workplace. Workspaces are cleaned and disinfected more regularly, with emphasis on regularly touched surfaces.

Social distancing guidelines (2m) should also be maintained wherever possible and signage acts as a useful reminder.

It’s also recommended that workers don’t share workstations and visitors should be seen by appointment only.

What’s more, the Government recommends that companies adapt staggered arrival and departure times, and employees avoid public transport if possible (see above).

Meet two UK businesses who’ve started their journey back to work, adopting the Government’s Covid-19 guidelines…

Hampton Printing, Bristol

Mike Malpas lives and breathes print. An account director at family-run Hampton Printing near Bristol, his day-to-day job involves high-end print clients. Not only is he usually on the road meeting people, he spends time on the shop floor and manages a team – and wanted to get back to work quickly.

“Our clients still need things printed and this can’t be done from home,” he explains. His company is currently working with the NHS to deliver potentially life-saving materials, as well as Rolls-Royce, among others.

Hampton Printing’s 32,000 square foot space is already a clean, dust-free environment, but the entire workspace had to be altered to ensure it is Covid-19-ready and safe for staff returning to work. Out of its 56 staff, 20 have now returned to work, including Malpas.

Reduced staff numbers help social distancing and, in every area of the business, there is hand sanitation, and signage about social distancing rules. Doors are also kept open so nobody touches the handles.

Hampton Printing also sanitises any paper that is delivered, then leaves it for six hours before printing to maintain high hygiene standards. The company has also retained two full-time cleaners who clean every single work surface on a daily basis.

“These measures make us all feel safe,” Malpas explains. “It feels great to be back at work and getting into a routine again.”

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