May 23, 2018

By Samuel Agini

Float on London’s junior AIM could value Alasdair Haynes’ exchange outfit at £75m

Aquis Exchange, founded by City veteran Alasdair Haynes, is lining up an initial public offering that could value the trading venue at around £75m and give it the funds needed to compete with larger rivals.

London-headquartered Aquis, which launched in November 2013 and has built up a roughly 2% market share in European equity trading, is initially looking to raise around £12m, according to people familiar with the matter.

Haynes has appointed bankers at Liberum to lead the float on London’s junior Alternative Investment Market. Aquis, which specialises in secondary trading of shares in companies across Europe but does not compete for listings, wants to raise money to finance sales and marketing and technology development.

The group is scheduled to start meeting potential investors later in May, with the IPO expected to take place by the end of June, the people said. Haynes does not intend to sell any shares.
The listing will allow the Warsaw Stock Exchange, a long-term shareholder, to divest its 20% stake. Financial News reported in February that Aquis was on the hunt for external investors to buy the eastern European exchange’s holding. Aquis is seen as non-core to Warsaw’s main business.

Aquis charges investors a subscription for trading on its exchange — similar to paying a monthly fee for a set amount of smartphone data. This differs from the traditional revenue model of stock exchanges taking a cut of the value of a trade.

Aquis settled on its approach, which effectively allows for unlimited trading at no extra cost beyond the subscription fee, in anticipation of the new European Union securities rules that went live on January 3 this year.

The EU’s revised Markets in Financial Instruments Directive enhanced existing requirements that force brokers and fund managers to route orders to venues that offer the best deal for end clients.

Aquis has also built a growing technology arm that provides services such as market surveillance and reporting software to financial institutions, including UBS.

Haynes was CEO of US broker ITG’s European operations in the decade to 2008 and went on to lead trading venue Chi-X Europe (now part of Cboe Global Markets) when the initial Mifid rulebook opened national exchanges to competition for the first time.

As well as Haynes, Aquis has a heavyweight board including chairman Niki Beattie, the well-known market structure consultant formerly of Merrill Lynch, and non-executive director Mark Spanbroek, a former director at market-maker Getco and a key figure in Europe’s proprietary trading community.