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13th Oct 2019

EU to unveil capital markets plan in 2015

  • Hill - capital markets blueprint will be ready next year. (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The European Commission will unveil plans to harmonise the bloc's capital markets in 2015 and reduce the reliance of Europe's businesses on bank lending, the bloc's new financial services chief has revealed.

Speaking at a conference of financial sector leaders and EU officials on Thursday (6 November), Jonathan Hill said that he would present an "action plan" by summer 2015 which would serve as a "roadmap to developing an ambitious capital markets union."

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The EU executive would also launch a public consultation involving the financial sector, politicians and NGOs, said Hill. "We still do not have a fully functioning single market for capital," he added.

As the EU's new financial services commissioner, Hill has been tasked with developing a so-called capital markets union, one of Jean-Claude Juncker's main pledges during his successful campaign for the European Commission presidency.

But although the program's name clearly echoes that of the bloc's banking union, politicians have been less able to pin down what it will mean in practice.

Lawmakers are anxious to explore ways to make firms less reliant on banks, which currently provide 80 percent of business finance, and follow the example set in the US where companies get five times as much funding from capital markets as their EU counterparts. EU firms obtain only 20 percent of their investment from debt securities.

Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs the monthly meetings of eurozone finance ministers, described it as "crucial" that the new regime feature a single European supervisor and the creation of a pan-European insolvency law.

New rules in the EU and across the world have forced banks to boost the amount of capital they hold on their balance sheets, in a bid to make them less vulnerable to future financial crises.

However, this, coupled with economic stagnation that exists across most of Europe, has made banks reluctant to increase their lending to businesses.

But Hill indicated that the programme was not likely to be completed any time soon, describing it as a "long term project".

The first priority will be for MEPs and ministers to agree on plans to create private European Long-Term Investment Funds (ELTIFs), to provide funds for firms that will need investment over a long period of time. Hill called on legislators to agree on the bill "before the end of the year".

The commission would also focus on developing the EU's securities and bond markets to allow firms to raise money through these, and other financial instruments, whose use has dwindled since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

Re-building the bloc's securities and private bond markets is also a priority of the European Central Bank which launched programmes to buy packaged loans, known as asset-backed securities, and bonds earlier in the autumn.

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The European Commission set out a road-map to emulate the US venture capital markets on Wednesday, in an attempt to make it easier for companies to raise money from the stock and bond markets.

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