Europe threatened by Nasdaq

Analysts see no European competitor to US tech exchange, on its way soon

A bitter attack on European "forces of conservatism" has been launched by Labour MP Derek Wyatt as Nasdaq threatens emerging European tech markets.

The decision of Nasdaq, the US' technology-oriented stock market, to launch a sister market in Europe has experts worried that Europe will lose out in the battle to dominate the Internet economy. Only Thursday, for example, two European companies chose to bypass the London Stock Exchange and float on the Nasdaq instead.

Wyatt -- Labour MP for Sittingbourne and head of the all-party Internet group -- is scathing in his attack on the UK's attitude to Internet start-ups. "Europe should have had an alternative to Nasdaq but it is too late now -- Nasdaq will win," he said. The main reason companies are bypassing European markets in favour of the Nasdaq is because it is "seven or eight times cheaper" to get a listing there, according to Wyatt.

Nasdaq's dominance of the venture capital landscape will have a grave impact on the European economy, Wyatt thinks. "If Europe had offered something cheap enough we would have been able to get a venture capital, risk environment going, but the forces of conservatism are not market-orientated. Venture capital is going to be led by America and we are losing employment opportunities," he said.

Wyatt bases his view on personal experience. "A biotech company in my constituency was trying to get funding. There was no money in the UK and they had to seek it in the US," he said, predicting more companies will move to Silicon valley in the near future.

The UK is due to launch its own technology stock market -- techMARK -- next month but venture capitalist Hermann Hauser is dismissive. "After all the European trains have left the station, the UK is finally putting a handcart on the rails," he said. (See European Tech Bourses .)Hauser calls for Europe to set up a counter-balance market to Nasdaq. "We need a pan-European technology market. Unless Europe gets its act together, Nasdaq will take it all," he said. He also calls on the UK government to support such a move with practical measures such as lowering capital gains tax.

Miles Saltiel, director of technology research at West LB Panmure believes the rush for Internet companies to go public is due to slow down, both in the US and in Europe. "The tonne of Internet IPO's expected in the autumn didn't happen due to the decline in stock values," he said. "Those not out of the hopper by November will have to wait until February, not least because people will be sitting on their hands due to Y2K issues."

So is the Internet bubble finally bursting? Saltiel thinks it is beginning to. "The first wave of the Internet is breaking but there will be many waves to follow," he predicts.

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