The French View of Cross-Border Securities Offerings (Aspects of the Modernisation of French Capital Markets)
WAYNE H. SMITH
Not so very long ago the securities markets of Europe were to a large extent isolated from one another. Companies raised nearly all their finance domestically, investors seldom bought significant amounts of foreign securities (with the major exception of British fund managers) and domestic regulations tended to perpetuate this state of affairs.
A number of developments in world capital markets over the past ten or fifteen years have led to a gradual lifting of barriers, and cross-border securities offerings have become relatively common. Among these developments the most important are the virtual elimination of exchange controls (at least in the OECD), the explosion of the Euromarkets (principally for debt instruments), the influence of European law on French law, numerous waves of privatisations by an ever-growing list of countries, as well as a profound change in the nature and tastes of investors, who have become both increasingly institutional and international-minded.
France of course has not been immune to these changes. France has evolved under the pressure of market forces, as have other countries. As I present the French view of cross-border securities offerings, I shall try to emphasise how France has evolved recently -- and the ground covered has been considerable -- and which specialities of French practice appear to me to remain of overriding interest to non-French issuers, intermediaries, investors and their advisers.
I hope that the fact that I am not an expert on all these matters -- which is obviously a shortcoming on my part -- will be an advantage, insofar as it allows me to present to you a bird's-eye view of the French position. I can therefore avoid dwelling on some of the more esoteric minutiae of French regulations, and in the bargain stand a chance of making myself understood.
The most convenient way of dealing with this subject seems to be, first, to discuss offerings of foreign securities in France, then to discuss offerings of French securities abroad.