ARTICLE ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED 23RD FEBRUARY 2018
I have, for the last 18 years, had the pleasure of running First Property Group plc, a small listed property company with a market value of £52 million, which I founded and which invests in the UK, Poland and to a small extent in Romania. My public company experience before this was as Finance Director of a Lloyd’s reinsurance broker; and before that I worked in corporate finance at Lehman Brothers. So my experience in the public domain is not inconsiderable. Throughout this time a succession of governments has vocally supported the cause of smaller listed businesses. First with the Unlisted Securities Market of the late 1980’s and then the current Alternative Investment Market (or AIM).
But sadly, notwithstanding this apparent support, the plight of our sector has got worse, not better. Some of it is self inflicted but I would go so far as to say that the capital markets have now more or less ceased to operate for companies the size of First Property.
Our sector has always had its fair share of spectacular failures – that is the nature of nascent and small businesses – but the lead up into the peak of the boom in 2007 was a shocking period. Unscrupulous entrepreneurs backed by even less scrupulous brokers, tapped up the stock market to float a whole host of businesses which should never have seen the light of day. In the property sector these companies were epitomised by the string of businesses buying strange and wonderful property in even stranger locations [Dragon Ukrainian Properties ring a bell?]. Not surprisingly, when the music stopped, there was a slew of failures and a commensurate slew of chastened investors. Institutional investors hot footed it out of AIM.