The new EU Prospectus Regulation (“PR”) was adopted by the European Council on 16 May 2017 and will enter into force on 20 July 2017. The PR is the latest regulation issued by the European Capital Markets Union (“CMU”) and should become reality by 2019. The PR is based on and further clarifies the existing EU Prospectus Directive. It contains provisions that are directly applicable in all EU member states without discretion, but that also apply in particular to Swiss-based issuers and their agents offering securities in the EU or admitting transferable securities to trading on regulated markets located in the EU such as EUREX. One of the main goals of the PR is to reduce the length of prospectuses by providing clear and detailed guidelines of how to create a prospectus. This newsletter gives a short overview of the key content of the PR and explains in particular how it will be applicable to Swiss-based issuers and their agents.
1. Executive Summary
The PR particularly affects Swiss-based issuers and their agents publicly offering transferable securities in the EU and admitting transferable securities to EU regulated markets such as EUREX.
Most financial instruments, such as shares, bonds, warrants and structured products come under its scope, except for units in collective investment schemes which are not close-ended. There are detailed new requirements related to the content, scope, length, formalities and other requirements of a prospectus.
The summary of a prospectus can be used instead of a KID created under PRIIPs. Issuers should therefore investigate operational and legal synergies between the PR and the KID. Consequently, the PR should be addressed now despite the fact that most provisions will not enter into force until 21 July 2019.
2. When a prospectus is required
A prospectus must be published when transferable securities are offered to the public in the EU or admitted to trading on regulated markets located in the EU by means of a communication to persons in any form and by any means, presenting sufficient information on the terms of the offer and the securities to be offered so as to enable an investor to decide to purchase or subscribe to the securities in question.
The prospectus obligation applies to both equity and non-equity securities entitling the holder either to acquire transferable securities or to receive a cash amount through a cash settlement determined by reference to other instruments, notably transferable securities, currencies, interest rates or yields, commodities or other indices or measures. It covers in particular warrants, covered warrants, certificates, structured products, and securities convertible at the option of the investor, but not units in collective investment schemes other than the closed-end types.
No public offer of transferable securities is deemed an offer to qualified investors in the sense of MiFID II (safe harbour). Any resale to the public of transferable securities first placed with qualified investors or admitted to trading on a regulated market will however require the publication of a prospectus. Offers to fewer than 150 natural or legal persons per EU Member State are not deemed to be public, nor are offers of securities with denominations per unit amounting to at least EUR 100,000 or offers of securities addressed to investors who acquire securities for a total consideration of at least EUR 100,000 per investor. There are also multiple exemptions applicable to securities traded on a regulated market.
Resales of transferable securities in the scope of the PR are generally treated as separate offers and are subject to a prospectus, unless an exemption applies. No additional prospectus is required as long as a valid prospectus is available. A prospectus is valid for 12 months from the date of approval of the offer or the admission to trading and the date on which the issuer or the person responsible for drawing up the prospectus consents to its use in written form.
It is possible to voluntarily draw up a prospectus in accordance with the provisions of the PR even if the offer would be outside the scope of application of the PR. Such prospectuses are subject to all the rights and obligations of a prospectus created according to the PR.
3. The issuer of a prospectus
The issuer who issues or proposes to issue securities, the offeror who offers securities to the public, or a mandated third party such as a bank, is responsible for ensuring that the prospectus provides sufficient information to enable investors to make informed investment decisions.
The liability for the information given in the prospectus, and any supplement thereto, lies at the very least with the issuer, or its administrative, management or supervisory bodies, the offeror, the person asking for the admission to trading on a regulated market, or the guarantor. The persons responsible for the prospectus must be clearly identified in the prospectus. Civil liability remains with the individual EU member states.
4. When do Swiss-based issuers have to issue a prospectus?
Any non-EU domiciled issuer, such as a Swiss issuer, bank or intermediary, can offer transferable securities in the EU or seek admission to trading of securities on a regulated market established in the EU, such as EUREX, if a prospectus is drawn up and approved by the competent authorities according to the PR. It is to be expected that the corresponding Swiss prospectus requirements will be equivalent to the prospectus requirements under the PR. The Swiss requirements are currently undergoing a revision in the context of the debate on the Swiss Financial Services Act (FinSA) in the Swiss parliament. As a result, competent authorities may in future even approve prospectuses issued under Swiss law if certain additional requirements are met.
5. The Key Types of Prospectuses
6. The prospectus approval process
Any prospectus and all its constituent parts must be approved by the competent authority prior to publication. Any of the constituent parts can be approved separately. The competent authority is generally the EU member state where the issuer has its registered office or, in the case of a third-country issuer such as a Swiss bank, the member state where the securities are intended to be offered to the public for the first time or where the first application for admission to trading on a regulated market is made.
The prospectus has to be made available to the public by the issuer, offeror or person asking for admission to trading on a regulated market in advance of, and at the latest at the beginning of the offer to the public or the admission to trading of the securities concerned. The prospectus is regarded as public if it is published in electronic format or on certain web pages.
The approving authority will then notify the competent authorities of the EU member states in which the securities will be distributed.
7. The rules for advertisements
Any advertisement regarding either an offer of securities to the public or an admission to trading on a regulated market must be clearly recognisable as such. All information disclosed in the context of an advertisement must be consistent with the information contained in the prospectus.
8. When are updates required?
Every significant new factor, material mistake or material inaccuracy relating to information included in the prospectus which may affect the assessment of securities and which arises between the time of the approval of the prospectus and the closing of the offer period or when trading on the regulated market begins, must be mentioned in a supplement to the prospectus and must be approved by the competent authority. In such cases, investors who have already agreed to purchase or subscribe to the securities have two days in which to withdraw their acceptance.
9. When will the PR enter into force?
The PR will enter into force on 20 July 2017. There will be a transitional period until 21 July 2019 for most requirements under the PR. Certain provisions will already apply as of 21 July 2018 and 20 July 2017 respectively, such as the exemption from publishing a prospectus for shares which represent less than 20% of the number of shares of the same class admitted to trading on the same regulated market over a period of 12 months.
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