* Drops $1 share requirement until June 30
* Extends lower market cap standard until June 30
* More than 50 companies below $1; nearly 500 below $5
* Nine delistings for cause so far in 2009 (Adds number of companies, byline)
By Jonathan Spicer
NEW YORK, Feb 26 (Reuters) - The New York Stock Exchange will suspend share price and market capitalization rules for its listed companies until June 30 to deal with the deepening market sell-off, parent company NYSE Euronext NYX.PANYX.N said on Thursday.
For the first time, the Big Board will suspend its requirement that companies keep their shares above $1 or face delisting. The market operator said it will also extend a temporary lowering of its market capitalization standard, which it introduced last month to stem a growing tide of delistings.
The changes are effective immediately, but still subject to approval by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Reuters reported on Feb. 24 that the NYSE was in talks with regulators on the $1 rule. [ID:nN24415895]
“The overall market downturn has only deepened ... causing an even larger number of stocks to fall below our requirements,” Scott Cutler, the company’s head of listings, said in a statement.
“We are taking proactive measures to ensure that the stocks of NYSE-listed companies can remain listed in the current difficult market conditions, enabling them to be available to the investing public during this period.”
The required market cap is temporarily $15 million, down from the usual $25 million. Previously, companies whose shares fell below $1 for 30 days, on average, received a letter warning they faced delisting after a six-month grace period.
The NYSE said the shares of more than 50 companies that had fallen below $1 would immediately benefit from the rule change. It said nearly 500 companies had fallen below $5.
The exchange has delisted nine companies so far this year for falling below one of several listing requirements. It delisted 54 last year. (Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Tim Dobbyn)