March 14, 2012 / 12:28 AM / 6 years ago

UK should embrace employee-owned firms - report

LONDON, March 13 (Reuters) - Britain would benefit from more John Lewis-style employee-owned firms, while companies with share listings should be subject to stricter controls, a report recommended on Wednesday.

The ownership commission, which was set up by the former Labour government to look at corporate ownership in the country, will present its findings to Business Secretary Vince Cable later today.

The commission, chaired by left-leaning commentator and former head of the Work Foundation Will Hutton, said Britain should use tax incentives to build up a German-style ‘mittelstand’ of middle-sized companies to support the economy.

Britain’s economy remains anaemic after limping out of recession following the banking crisis. A lack of lending by banks to smaller and medium-sized businesses remains a hot topic and has been the subject of frequent criticism by Cable.

“The financial crisis and the protracted problems in its wake has opened up the debate about how well our economy is owned, run and managed. Good ownership is indissolubly linked to good capitalism,” said Hutton, ahead of the report launch.

Suggested committee proposals to introduce more plurality in corporate ownership include measures to allow mutually-owned companies to raise capital and support for employee-owned firms so they are not taxed “inappropriately”.

Employee-owned John Lewis, Britain’s biggest department store group, has been praised by Prime Minister David Cameron for its business model, which provides for an annual bonus to be paid to its 81,000 ‘partner’ staff.

The company’s chairman Charlie Mayfield was on the commission, as was Peter Marks, chief executive of Britain’s largest mutual, The Co-Operative Group, and British Gas owner Centrica’s chairman Roger Carr.


The committee also recommended that London listings should have at least 50 percent of their equity freely traded. The FTSE raised its minimum float threshold for a listing to 25 percent in January, as part of a drive to protect minority investors and ensure more diverse ownership.

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