“It is now three weeks since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. At that time, we announced that we were implementing precautionary measures in order to safeguard the interests of our staff and our wider communities, whilst also ensuring business continuity.

Since then, we have continued to monitor the public health advice across the jurisdictions in which we operate and where we have significant business relationships. As a result of the changing circumstances, we have continued to evolve our working practices to maintain high standards of care for our employees, both to protect their health and enable them to provide uninterrupted and quality service to our clients.

I am pleased to say that this has been implemented without impacting the continued operation of the market or diminishing our support to market participants and has been achieved during what has been a busy period for new listings.

We had a very strong start to 2020 prior to the spread of and escalating situation in relation to COVID-19. Since then, as principally a debt market, we have not seen the volatility associated with the major equity markets, although the coronavirus has led some issuers to pause their activity. Nevertheless, there has still been a steady stream of new listings through to the end of March.

In total there were 219 newly listed securities in the period to 31 March 2020, which represents an increase of 71% on 2019, albeit it was a particularly flat quarter in the prior year, particularly as a result of uncertainty in relation to Brexit at that time. Overall, there has been net growth of 2% in listed securities during the first quarter, taking the total number of listed securities on the market to 3,058 at 31 March 2020.

Currently we are continuing to see new listings business flow through to us from deals already in progress, but it seems likely that the current uncertainty will lead to a slowdown in the second quarter. Indeed, like those on other markets, our equity issuers, especially those investment vehicles invested into asset classes such as property, are already experiencing uncertainty over valuations. That said, as our market primarily comprises debt issuers, what we have seen in previous downturns is that while equity issuances become more difficult, there is often a spike in restructuring and refinancing that can generate transactions which require a listing and therefore we see a change to the mix of our business.

Ultimately, we recognise that in the short to medium term there is likely to be a slowdown in listing activity as a result of the pandemic’s wider impact on the global economy and capital markets and we are monitoring this closely. Indeed, not only have we been in regular, direct communication with our Members in more detail about the practicalities of their interaction with the Exchange at this time but also in respect of the impact that COVID-19 may be having on their issuers.

We recognise that these unprecedented circumstances have implications which ripple out across the globe and touch virtually every sector. As such, the Exchange is willing to provide appropriate flexibility in order to support current and prospective issuers, while in doing so pragmatically considering the protection of investors and their needs.

In essence, we expect issuers to continue to meet all of their filing, reporting and other obligations where possible. However, like registries, regulators and other exchanges, we recognise that there may be circumstances in which it is either unachievable or inappropriate to do so and where the issuer believes this to be the case then early engagement with the Exchange is required in order to agree any temporary deviation from the Listing Rules.

Hopefully in the months to come we will see some sort of return to ‘normality’ but in the meantime, it is through such measures as these that we aim to continue to provide an effective exchange for all market participants as we all work together through COVID-19.”