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MAR 1 Annex 3 Specialist topics

G

Scope of the market abuse regime

Scope of the market abuse regime for bonds

If a qualifying investment ("QI"), for example a security , trades on a prescribed market, it falls within the scope of the regime (see MAR 1.11.1 G). Any other behaviour "in relation to qualifying investments" traded on a prescribed market also falls within the scope of the market abuse regime (see MAR 1.11.1 G). For example, bonds "traded on", or traded subject to the rules of, CoredealMTS or the London Stock Exchange (see MAR 1.11.3 G (2)) are QIs traded on a prescribed market. Eurobonds which have at no time traded on an RIE do not fall within the scope of the regime.

Bonds admitted to trading on a prescribed market but traded subject to the rules of a non-prescribed market may fall within the scope of the regime if they have previously traded on the prescribed market . However, if there is no ongoing market for a QI on a prescribed market , market participants are unlikely to rely on the prescribed market for price discovery. Equally, if there is no continuing market for the QI on the prescribed market , behaviour is unlikely to damage confidence in the prescribed market for that QI (MAR 1.11.4 G).

The scope of the regime for 'grey market' or 'when issued' trading (equities and bonds)

'Grey market' or 'when issued' trading in a qualifying investment on a prescribed market will usually be within the scope of the regime. Where a prescribed market has rules for 'when issued' trading in a security or derivative of that security , and trading in that security or derivative is subject to the rules of the prescribed market, it will also fall within the scope of the regime. This trading will fall within the "traded on" concept as this includes traded subject to the rules of a prescribed market (MAR 1.11.3 G (2)). This will include 'when issued' trading on the London Stock Exchange in shares and on LIFFE in equity options. Where there is 'grey market' trading which is not subject to the rules of a prescribed market , the behaviour may be "in relation to the qualifying investment " when it is ultimately "traded on" the prescribed market.

Behaviour which occurs "in relation to a qualifying investment" traded on a prescribed market falls within the scope of the regime. This would include further offerings of shares by an issuer that has already issued shares which "trade on" a prescribed market (that is, an existing tranche is already traded on a prescribed market ). For bonds, behaviour in relation to a bond being tapped which trades on a prescribed market would also be behaviour "in relation to a qualifying investment" traded on a prescribed market.

Any behaviour whose effect persists until the security is traded on an exchange will be behaviour in relation to that security . New issues by a previously unlisted issuer (for example, initial public offers ("IPOs")) will not be "traded on" a prescribed market ahead of the issue, however they will fall within the scope of the regime if information which is disclosed about them before the security trades on a prescribed market , for example, in a prospectus, is false or misleading. So, if a false or misleading impression persists if and when the instrument is actually traded and thereby falls within the scope of the regime, that behaviour would fall within the scope of the regime. Market abuse may therefore be said to occur when the security trades on the prescribed market . Note too that if the price is false at the start of trading, and the stabilising manager knows or ought reasonably to know this, the price stabilising rules safe harbour may not be available (MAR 2.2.2 G, MAR 2.3.8 G).

Application

1.

This guidance is relevant to persons who manage convertible and exchangeable bond issues and persons who issue, sell or purchase convertible and exchangeable bonds. The guidance details the FSA 's views about the application of the market abuse regime to the current market practices employed when pre-hedging such issues.

Summary

2.

In brief, this guidance states that for convertible and exchangeable bonds whose launch is required to be disclosed to the market, dealing or arranging in the underlying shares or related products, before disclosure to the market and while in possession of information about the launch, is likely to amount to market abuse . For example, it is likely to be market abuse for a person, who possesses information about a disclosable convertible or exchangeable bond launch, to sell the underlying shares short before the announcement of the launch, with a view to facilitating the purchase of the underlying shares after the announcement.

3.

However, there are circumstances where the FSA believes the regular user is likely to view certain pre-hedging activity as acceptable, and these are noted in paragraphs 18 to 21 (Pre-arranging to borrow shares from the issuer) and 23 to 26 (Exchangeable bond issues) of this annex.

Meaning of "convertible and exchangeable bonds"

4.

There are many different types of convertible and exchangeable bonds; but this guidance uses the following definitions:

(1)

convertible bonds are bonds issued by a company for the purpose of raising capital and are convertible into the company's own shares; the company issues new shares in time for the conversion; invariably the new shares will be fungible with existing shares;

(2)

exchangeable bonds are bonds issued by a company and are convertible into a third party's shares; in this case, the issuer normally has an existing holding in the underlying shares and is disposing of a substantial shareholding.

Detailed guidance

5.

For behaviour to amount to market abuse , the conditions set out in sections 118(1)(a), (b) and (c) of the Act must be satisfied (as described in MAR 1.1.3 G).

Behaviour in relation to a qualifying investment

6.

Under section 118(1)(a), behaviour must occur in relation to a qualifying investment traded on a prescribed market (see MAR 1.11.2 G for a list of these prescribed markets). As explained in MAR 1.11.6 E, section 118(6) provides non-exhaustive guidance on what will amount to behaviour in relation to a qualifying investment . In particular, behaviour can occur in relation to a qualifying investment traded on a prescribed market where the behaviour is not in a qualifying investment . This is because such behaviour can nevertheless have a damaging effect on prescribed markets. This includes behaviour in relevant products as discussed in MAR 1.11.9 E.

7.

Consequently, for behaviour in relation to the issue of a convertible or exchangeable bond to come within the scope of the market abuse regime, it is necessary that:

(1)

the underlying shares into which the bond can be converted are traded on a prescribed market and therefore the convertible or exchangeable bond is a relevant product; or

(2)

the convertible or exchangeable bond is traded on a prescribed market.

Behaviour which amounts to misuse of information

8.

Under section 118(1)(b) of the Act one or more of the conditions in section 118(2) have to be met in order for behaviour to amount to market abuse (see MAR 1.1.3 G). MAR 1.4.4 E discusses the condition in section 118(2)(a) (referred to here as "misuse of information"). MAR 1.4.4 E states that behaviour will amount to market abuse in that it will be a misuse of information where all the circumstances in MAR 1.4.4 E (1) to MAR 1.4.4 E (4) are present.

9.

MAR 1.4.4 E (1) applies only where a persondeals or arranges deals. In using these defined terms, MAR 1.4.4 E (1) has a broad compass, since the Glossary definitions of dealing and arranging both have an extended meaning. Dealing , for instance, relates to the activity of dealing as described in paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 to the Act, and thus does not include the various exceptions that would have applied had the term been defined by reference to the Regulated Activities Order. Further, arranging cover not only arranging (bringing about) deals in investments within article 25(1) of the Regulated Activities Order and making arrangements with a view to transactions in investments within article 25(2) of the Regulated Activities Order , but agreeing to carry on either of those activities within article 64 of the Regulated Activities Order . Accordingly, the following behaviour , in particular in relation to convertible or exchangeable bonds, falls within one or other of the Glossary definitions of dealing and arranging:

(1)

selling the underlying shares short;

(2)

entering into a derivative transaction to sell the shares;

(3)

borrowing the underlying shares;

(4)

entering into some types of credit derivatives in relation to the convertible or exchangeable bond.

10.

The following behaviour in relation to convertible or exchangeable bonds will also fall within one or other of the Glossary definitions of dealing or arranging :

(1)

icing (that is, locating and reserving shares from prospective lenders) the underlying shares on a formal basis such that the arrangements are contractual in nature and so binding on the parties, such as 'pay to hold' arrangements; since the borrowing of stock involves a transaction of sale and purchase, this applies whether the formal, contractual, icing is with a view to subsequent borrowing by the person icing the shares or is for borrowing by a third party;

(2)

informal, non-contractual, icing arrangements, for example, where the icing of the underlying shares involves the informal reservation of the shares, the terms not being offered or agreed until after the disclosure to the market; in this case, however, the definitions cover the case only where the icing is undertaken on behalf of a third party.

11.

Where icing arrangements are informal and non-contractual in nature, and are with a view to subsequent borrowing for the person icing the shares, they will fall outside both the definition of dealing and that of arranging . This would be because the fact that the entity making the icing arrangements is to become a principal to the stock loan means that there would be no agreement to borrow (in other words deal ) within paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 to the Act and, in relation to arranging , the exclusion in article 28 of the Regulated Activities Order would apply. However, even if such icing does not come within the circumstances outlined in MAR 1.4.4 E (1), it will still fall within section 118(1)(b) of the Act and the market abuse regime. MAR 1.4.4 E does not operate to exclude from the market abuse regime all behaviour falling outside the circumstances outlined in MAR 1.4.4 E (see section 122(2) of the Act and MAR 1.2.13 E). For this reason, the guidance that is provided in this annex on the application of the remaining elements in section 118(2)(b) and the regular user test in section 118(1)(c) will also apply to icing that is outside the Glossary definitions of dealing and arranging and thus not covered by MAR 1.4.4 E (1).

12.

This guidance concerns current market practice when pre-hedging the issue of convertible and exchangeable bonds. By definition, such pre-hedging (and its constituent activities) is behaviour "based on" the information that there is to be an issue of a convertible or exchangeable bond. Therefore, this aspect of MAR 1.4.4 E (1) is satisfied.

13.

MAR 1.4.4 E (2) states that the information must not be generally available. The information that a forthcoming convertible or exchangeable bond is going to be launched is not generally available before the launch (see MAR 1.4.5 E which contains criteria for assessing whether information is generally available).

14.

MAR 1.4.4 E (3) states that the information must be relevant information . The knowledge that there is going to be a forthcoming issue of a convertible or exchangeable bond is relevant information for all dealing and arranging activity identified at paragraph 9 (see MAR 1.4.9 E to MAR 1.4.11 E which contain criteria for assessing when information is relevant).

15.

However, if a person is speculating that an issue is imminent or trading on the basis of rumour, it would be acceptable to undertake dealing or arranging in the underlying shares, or in the securities of the issuer, provided the person is satisfied that he is basing his behaviour on information that is generally available, or that the information is not relevant.

Application of the regular user test

16.

MAR 1.4.4 E (4) considers specific aspects of the regular user test in section 118(1)(c) of the Act in the context of the misuse of information. MAR 1.4.4 E (4) requires the information to relate to matters which the regular user would reasonably expect to be disclosed to users of the particular prescribed market . If there is a legal or regulatory requirement to disclose the issue of the convertible or exchangeable bond to the market, the regular user would reasonably expect that no dealing or arranging should occur before this disclosure is made (see MAR 1.4.12 E to MAR 1.4.15 E). An exception to this may exist if the trading information safe harbour provided by MAR 1.4.26 C applies, or in the circumstances outlined in paragraphs 18 to 21 (Pre-arranging to borrow shares from the issuer) or 23 to 26 (Exchangeable bond issues).

17.

Where there is no legal or regulatory requirement (such as that contained in the listing rules) to disclose the issue, current market practice is that there is no routine announcement of the issue. Therefore, in the absence of a legal or regulatory requirement to disclose the issue, the regular user would not reasonably expect the information to be disclosed.

Pre-arranging to borrow shares from the issuer

18.

The regular user may consider that it is acceptable behaviour for the manager of a convertible or exchangeable bond issue to arrange to borrow shares from the issuer or a related party of the issuer before the announcement of the launch of the issue. The shares held by the issuer or a related party are often not part of the lending market, and the issue manager may need to have access to the issuer's or a related party's pool of available shares in order to facilitate the transaction; for example, by meeting post-announcement hedging demand. Although there may be stock available in the market from other lenders, the need to pre-arrange to borrow the issuer's or a related party's shares may be critical to the success of the issue.

19.

In determining that such behaviour is acceptable, the regular user is likely to view borrowing shares from the issuer or a related party as an acceptable practice in circumstances where:

(1)

there is a genuine need to prearrange to borrow the shares to facilitate the issue;

(2)

the parties to the pre-arranged borrowing are all aware of the forthcoming bond issue; and

(3)

other market participants are not disadvantaged (see paragraphs 20 and 21).

20.

There will be circumstances when the regular user is likely to regard borrowing from the issuer or a related party as unacceptable. An example would be if issuers or related parties withdraw stock from the lending market in order to lend it to the issue manager in such a way that other market participants are disadvantaged.

21.

For the issuer or a related party, when considering whether it is acceptable to make stock available to the issue manager, account needs to be taken not only of the extent to which stock will or may be lent to the issue manager, but also of the extent to which the stock has been available to the lending market. Factors which will be relevant in making this assessment are how recently and in what volume the stock to be lent to the issue manager has been available to the market. If the stock has been available to the lending market in some volume, and the amount that is to be lent to the issue manager will substantially reduce that volume, issuers or related parties need to be aware that withdrawing the stock may mean that they are engaging in market abuse by creating an abusive squeeze (MAR 1.6.13 G).

Trading information safe harbour

22.

Under MAR 1.4.26 C, behaviour will not amount to a misuse of information if it is based on information about a person's intention to deal or arrange deals. However, the protection of this safe harbour does not apply if the dealing or arranging is based on information relating to new offers, issues, placements or other primary market activity (see MAR 1.4.26 C (2)). Convertible bond issues are likely to be primary market activity, as they invariably involve the issue of new securities, in the form of the bond, and may also involve the contemporaneous issue of new shares; if so, therefore, the protection of the safe harbour will not be available to these products.

Exchangeable bond issues

23.

Similarly, an exchangeable bond issue which has been the subject of an extensive marketing effort is likely to be part of the primary market, because it is itself a security, and therefore will also fall outside the protection of the safe harbour. It may be suggested that an exchangeable bond issue which is privately negotiated or structured has many of the characteristics of secondary market trades, and should therefore benefit from the trading information safe harbour in MAR 1.4.26 C. However, since, as explained in paragraph 22, the exchangeable bond involves the listing of new securities, even such an issue is likely to be considered as primary market activity.

24.

Nonetheless, in determining whether there is an exposure to the market abuse regime taken as a whole, a distinction can be drawn between convertible or exchangeable bond issues that are the subject of a public marketing effort and consequently have an impact on a substantial number of market participants, and those exchangeable issues that are privately negotiated or structured transactions.

25.

Factors which should be taken into account when drawing the distinction in paragraph 24 are:

(1)

how widely distributed the issue is; and

(2)

whether such transactions are routinely announced prior to completion (as opposed to purely ex-post disclosures, for example, under the listing rules).

26.

Although the privately negotiated or structured transactions referred to in paragraphs 24 and 25 may not benefit from the trading information safe harbour, it is likely that the regular user would view pre-hedging of these issues by parties to the transaction as acceptable behaviour. Accordingly, behaviour amounting to dealing or arranging as stated in paragraph 9 of this annex in connection with such exchangeable bond issues will not amount to market abuse because the regular user test in section 118(1) (c) of the Act is not satisfied.

The application of MAR 2 (Price stabilising rules)

27.

The regular user would expect relevant market participants to comply with the requirements for stabilising activity as set out in MAR 2 where these are applicable; they include the making of a public announcement of a new issue before undertaking any stabilising action.1