Private companies in the spotlight

Last year saw a strong increase in delistings from AIM as more than 100 companies looked to pursue life as a private company. When opting for a future as a private company rather than as a listed business, one of the commonly cited factors is a desire to avoid the pressures of life in the public eye. For some companies, the higher profile associated with a stock market listing is counterproductive.

It’s certainly true that life as a listed business comes with responsibilities and commitments. And it’s also true in some industries being a private company gives you the advantage of a longer time horizon for investment decisions.

But being private doesn’t mean that you become invisible – and trends in the coming year are likely to mean more scrutiny, rather than less.

For example, Theresa May’s push for more controls over governance at large private businesses reflects that increasingly it is not just listed businesses that are being pushed into greater transparency and oversight.

And even if businesses aren’t publically listed, their corporate reputation still matters – when businesses are in the spotlight, how they are perceived will matter to customers, regulators, partners, lenders and so on. And the enduring trend since the financial crisis has been for companies to be more in the spotlight, not less – meaning that reputation will increasingly impact their ability to raise finance, expand and conduct corporate activity.

No company is an island and even private companies are facing increasing scrutiny. Any prominent business – regardless of its ownership structure – can reasonably expect more scrutiny, not less, in the near future.

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