CORRECTED-Advisor opens new line on SME funding

Tue Nov 15, 2011 6:03am EST

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By Luke Jeffs

LONDON Nov 15 (Reuters) - Cash-strapped European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have a new channel to access funding after an online platform for private company shares opened up to European investors for the first time.

Swiss tech firm LPO Ventures, which has a website for fledgling European firms seeking investment, has partnered with the UK regulated fund advisor Autumn Capital to extend its FirstPEX offering out of Switzerland to the UK and Europe.

"This gives European investors the chance to participate in the exciting opportunities of investing in fast-growing private companies that the platform offers," Patrick Gruhn, the Chief Executive of LPO Ventures, said in an emailed statement.

FirstPEX said it has over 100 European companies and investors but the investor segment has until now been limited to Swiss entities.

The firms feel that opening up to non-Swiss investors will boost investment and therefore attract more small and medium sized firms from across the region.

Kevin Cook, the founding partner of Autumn Capital Partners, said FirstPEX has the potential to be Europe's answer to SecondMarket and SharesPost, the popular United States-based platforms linking investors and smaller firms.

"Given the lack of European initial public offering (IPO) culture among mid-sized business and the extreme contractions in European banking activity, the potential could be actually greater," said Cook.

Europe's cash-strapped banks have reined in their lending to fledgling firms this year and European IPO activity has virtually dried up since the summer amid ongoing economic uncertainty.

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