With regulated markets in Amsterdam, Brussels, Dublin, Lisbon, Milan, Oslo, and Paris, Euronext is the largest stock exchange group in Europe and is the continent’s largest liquidity pool, representing 25% of European equity trading activity.
With just shy of 2,000 listed companies Euronext accounts for more than €6 trillion in market capitalisation. According to the group, approximately 700 tech companies have chosen to list with them, resulting in a market capitalisation of more than €1 trillion.
In a post-Brexit world, we’ve seen a steady stream of financial activity shift away from London and off to other markets across the continent, most notably with the recent development of the French stock market value ($2.823 trillion), overtaking that of the UK ($2.821 trillion). And while tech certainly doesn’t make up the whole pie, it's undeniable that the sector has its appeal to investors.
Euronext Tech Leaders
In order to help position European companies at the forefront of international investors’ minds, earlier this year, Euronext launched its Euronext Tech Leaders initiative, comprising a segment, an index, and a programme designed not only to strengthen the position of European tech companies on a global scale but to unify fragmented, national market tech listings and deliver investors with a cohesive European sector-wide view.
At present, the programme is composed of 111 high-growth and leading companies, representing approximately €800 billion in market capitalisation, each meeting a number of criteria, both financial and non, including a minimum of €300 million in market capitalisation and a minimum growth rate to be included. For those with north of a €1 billion market capitalisation, no performance criteria are required.
Attending the Euronext Tech Leaders flagship event in Paris last week, I sat down with Euronext CEO and Chairman of the Managing Board, Stéphane Boujnah to learn more about the initiative and find out just exactly what Euronext is doing to support the European tech ecosystem.
A unified front
In his opening remarks at the event, Boujnah spoke to the transformation of today’s market, highlighting that access to capital is changing, with private equity having less and less flexibility, and that inflation and supply chain instability issues are wreaking havoc across the board.
While many see the current state of affairs as a downturn, I got the sense that Boujnah, Euronext, and the Euronext Tech Leaders programme, in particular, view these events as an opportunity. An opportunity to leverage what we have and amalgamate a fragmented European tech scene, one that can retain its own nationality, but see, and present itself to the world as a part of a unified whole.
“We have great technology companies across Euronext markets that are very much associated with their local business communities. But, the relevant space to attract global investments who want to invest in European tech is to provide a continental perception of this tech space,” said Boujnah. “When you look at a tech company that is listed on Nasdaq, nobody says, ‘well this is a Californian company, this is a Massachusetts company, or this is a Texas company’. Since there is no one dominant place for technology companies in Europe, we are never going to convince the rest of the world that all the technology companies should be listed in one particular country, but to list in Europe.”
While the Euronext CEO highlighted that the organisation is not trying to create a European Nasdaq, but as a group, they are creating a relative universe for investment, taking a segment and translating it into an actionable item for investors, e.g. an index. The only piece missing here is the community around it, the community that Euronext is working on building.
Building the community
“We are creating a community because we are in the process of building a project, an ambition, because we don’t have a place, we don’t have Times Square. We need to make it concrete through other channels, like these types of events,” further explained Boujnah.
While I attended only one Euronext Tech Leaders event, the group organises events in the framework of this programme multiple times per year, all aimed at connecting investors with the 111 (at present) companies that have been selected to join the programme.
Now if you’re thinking that this sounds like any other investor/tech company conference, you’re right it is. And it isn’t. The key differentiating factor is that this event is organised and sponsored by the organisation that accounts for a quarter of the shares trading in Europe, as well as a number of key financial institutions including BNP Paribas, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, and J.P. Morgan.
“We make sure that in the mind of all the asset managers, both the research level and at the investors level, that they look at the technology companies in Europe as being these group of companies,” says Boujnah.
Preparing for a listing
Based on the criteria laid out to be accepted to the Euronext Tech Leaders programme, it’s clear that some companies are in the process of preparing for an IPO, and those that have already taken their wares to the market. An additional upside to the Euronext Tech Leaders programme is that Euronext is ensuring that these leaders have a space to meet, mingle, and engage in knowledge sharing.
“What you have in the room today is a combination of representatives of companies that are listed on Euronext and companies that are preparing for listing,” explained Boujnah. “The idea of a continuum between non-yet-public technology companies with great ambitions and already listed technology leaders is a fundamental thing to capture within the same community.”
Fostering this knowledge share beyond the big show, the Euronext Tech Leaders programme organises smaller gatherings for one to two days per quarter aimed at helping pre-listed companies prepare for the shock of going public.
“You need to own the IPO process,” says Boujnah. “We organise these sessions with investor relations, with accountants, with strategists, with lawyers, etc. to help pre-IPO members prepare for the time when they meet advisors prior to the IPO, they already know what’s happening.”
Around the campfire
While we’ve seen the term THE European tech community bantered around a countless number of times, more often than not, this term, and the groups that it gathers often tend to be focused on early-stage startups, as opposed to publicly, or those preparing to be publicly listed companies. In attempting to unify the later stage segment through a series of events aimed at preparing companies to be listed, mingling listed companies with pre-IPO companies, and exposing and showcasing member companies to a specific community of technology investors that are looking to diversify geographically, Euronext is offering something quite different from the standard fare.
“When people meet together around the fire, they are far more open and engaged than when they are isolated in their tents,” concludes Boujnah.