It'll Never Fly: Listed companies

Why float your company? The idea of having a load of outsiders poking around in your business can't be appealing, especially now that every decision has to pass muster with the FSA as well as hundreds of bickering shareholders...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The top brass at Britain's plcs seem to spend more time placating these forces than running the business. Still, it could be worse: they could be in the US. There, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed to ease investors' fears over corporate governance, is under fire for imposing impossible levels of regulation.

Of course, listed firms had their place once. In the early days of empire, when mountains of capital were required to fund trips to India and China, it made sense for merchants to pool their resources into joint stock companies in pursuit of great riches.

But the model might be looking dated. Banks have never been happier to lend, and borrowing on your own has never been easier. And there are the bottomless pockets of private equity. No more arduous regulation or quarterly reports, no puffy management structures that leave little sense of ownership; instead, greater incentive, increased dynamism and some solid cash to show for all the hard work.

If the M&S recovery had been done via a private equity deal, Stuart Rose would have made four or five times his £10 million performance-related package. Of course, the workers may not get such a good deal, but who cares about them?

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