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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 June, 2003, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Call for local exchanges
London Stock Exchange trading floor
Should shares trading be extended beyond London?
Calls are growing from local businesses for the revival of regional stock markets in cities outside of London.

Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh and Glasgow all used to trade shares in their local companies. And the capital those markets generated provided the lifeblood for Britain's industrial growth.

But in the early 1970s, the cost of operating them led finally to their closure, and the rise and rise of the London Stock Exchange.

All our research shows local companies would like to make use of stock exchanges
John Pratt, president of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

John Pratt, president of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, believes the re-introduction of a stock market in England's second city will be good for local businesses.

He said many companies would benefit from raising capital from a stock market listing rather than pay interest on bank loans.

"In the West Midlands, companies rely too heavily on bank finance. All our research shows local companies would like to make use of stock exchanges as a way of raising finance," he told BBC Radio 4's Money Box.

Companies trampled

Mr Pratt believes smaller companies have been trampled in the stampede to global markets, with high costs in the Square Mile and advisors' fees that can swallow up more than 20% of the money companies end up raising.

"The costs of obtaining a quotation are huge. And that puts people off," he said.

Regional development agency Advantage West Midlands is drawing up a blueprint for a web-based local exchange aimed exclusively at small investors.

It would be helpful for us as a share club to go and visit a local company
Jim Simpson, Sparklets investment club

Shares would not be traded continuously and auctions would happen as often as the quoted company wants.

"We would want it to be a not-for-profit exchange. Any surpluses could be ploughed back into developing the market further." said the agency's Mary Martin.

Jim Simpson, chairman of Birmingham-based Sparklets investment club, believes a local exchange would help turn around current losses on paper of around 60%.

"I think it is attractive. It would be helpful for us as a share club to go and visit a local company, see what they're making, how their balance sheet is," he said.

Although other areas including Manchester are also interested in the idea, Birmingham is the most advanced. But it will not be ready to announce more concrete plans until at least the autumn.




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