Mining juniors could suffer in ASX listing rule update

A GROUP of 15 broking, law and advisory firms has issued an open letter to the Australian Securities Exchange warning that proposed changes to the listing rules will make it harder for resources companies to complete

Haydn Black

In the statement the firms and 115 co-signatories said the changes, which include increasing the net tangible asset criteria from $3 million to $5 million, requiring three full financial years of audited accounts and suspending companies announcing backdoor listings would have "undue impact on early stage businesses".

The ASX, which has recently seen a swathe of smaller oil and mineral explorers move out of the resources space into the tech and health sectors via backdoor listings, has been concerned by some of the deals on offer recently.

The firms – which include well known brokers Argonaut, Euroz, Hartleys, Patersons; law firms DLA Piper, Gilbert + Tobin and Steinepreis Paganin; and West Perth advisors Azure Capital, BDO and FTI Consulting – suggest the ASX should maintain net tangible asset criteria at $3 million for exploration companies, limit full financial audited accounts, and avoid the need for suspension on announcement of backdoor listings, a new rule that has already snared a number of companies.

The letter said they agreed with the majority of ASX's other proposed suggestions including a minimum free float condition, increasing the profit test, spread threshold and working capital criteria.

“As a group, we are very supportive of the efforts of the ASX to maintain market integrity and we can see that's the position they are coming from with their proposed changes," Argonaut managing director Eddie Rigg said.

The group said the ASX proposal does not reflect statistics that show no obvious correlation between the size of net tangible asset at listing and ultimate success of a company, nor the current challenging environment for the resources and energy sectors, which would make such an increase unfeasible.

It also says the wording for three full financial years of audited accounts is ambiguous for start-up businesses with no or limited trading history.

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies last month said it had received unprecedented member feedback over contains clauses that will prevent companies from releasing important material information to shareholders and the market at crucial funding points in the overall mine cycle, as well as impeding them from the opportunity to raise capital when needed.

The ASX, which says it is considering feedback from stakeholders, says its proposals are designed to maintain and strengthen the quality and integrity of the ASX listings market and avoid "potential mischief".

It has been concerned by the influx of new technology, healthcare and financial stock market floats after backdoor listings jumped by 164% between 2014-15, and says the ASX is moving away from resources, which means the listing rules are no longer fit for purpose.

Minerals and energy sector listings slipping from more than 50 per cent of new listings in 2007 to less than 10% last year, with no new oil and gas float since 2014.

It has been 20 years since their last major revision.

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