Stop talking Britain down: Aviva chief Amanda Blanc issues rallying cry as yet another UK firm eyes New York listing

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One of the most powerful women in British finance has urged the country to “stop putting yourself down” after another company said it was eyeing a listing in New York.

Aviva chief executive Amanda Blanc urged the UK to stand by itself, adding that the UK must “take action” to reduce unnecessary regulation.

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Her battle cry came amid growing concerns over the UK’s capital markets after chip maker Arm and building materials giant CRH chose to list in New York last week.

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Time to act: Aviva chief executive Amanda Blanc urged the UK to stand by itself, adding that the UK must “take action” to reduce unnecessary regulation.

The city was dealt another blow when fintech star OakNorth warned it would list its shares in New York rather than London.

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The problems of these firms include a lack of access to capital, as well as the inability of investors to understand fast-growing technology companies.

But Blanc refused to join in the hysteria, saying: “We want the UK to be successful and I think we should stop talking ourselves into it.”

“We have a lot of components in the UK and we just need to get out of our way and actually start doing what we promised to do.”

OakNorth is a particular disappointment considering it’s a UK tech success and could go public as early as this year.

CEO Rishi Khosla has taken aim at the UK’s capital structure, saying it lacks a domestic investor base focused on fast-growing technology.

The comments mark a significant shift from previous interviews, in which Khosla indicated that London was his number one choice.

More worryingly, BSF Enterprise joined the list, saying it also filed yesterday to trade its shares in the US along with its primary listing on the main market in London.

Despite BSF being valued at just £13m, BSF made a splash last month when it produced the UK’s first lab-grown pork fillet. Leading financiers lamented the outcome, calling for an overhaul of Britain’s capital markets.

Jupiter’s fund manager Richard Buxton said the two-decade-old rule requiring companies to keep pension deficits on their balance sheets should be repealed.

He added that it was responsible for “billions of pounds” flowing from British shares. Ahead of next week’s budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is due to make changes that could make it easier for institutional investors to support British firms.

Research by the Office for National Statistics showed that in 2000, 39% of all shares listed on the London Stock Exchange were owned by British pension funds and insurance companies.

But by 2020, that number has dropped to 4%. Buxton told the Financial Times: “The UK has a huge opportunity with its world-class universities. But we don’t seem to be able to fund these businesses or keep them growing in this country.”

M&G chief executive Andrea Rossi warned that the UK is still suffering from Kwasi Kwarteng’s September mini-budget, when unvalued tax cuts sent bond markets into a spiral.

He said: “Britain has great intellectual property, but the problem is that when it needs to move to the next stage, firms turn to American capital.”

He added that “the UK may be thriving, but it has been affected by the events of autumn 2022”.

Blanc was more optimistic, saying the UK was on the right track, adding that all the country needed was “a little confidence”.

Aviva’s shares rose 2.7% yesterday after its £2.2bn operating profit for the year beat expectations.

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