As stock exchanges increasingly move towards 24-7 trading, Euronext - the planned merger of the Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam exchanges - is moving in the opposite direction, proposing a twice-a-day auction system for listed stocks with less than 20,000 trading transactions per year that do not have a liquidity provider (market maker). The move would thus focus Euronext on larger, more liquid stocks.

Euronext was taking comments on the proposal through Dec. 10, although based on conversations Ebb & Flow had with biotech companies that could be affected, it appears that few had even heard about the proposal.

Frank Oosthoek of AOT, the organization of Dutch specialist brokers, which could lose business in Amsterdam if the change comes into effect, said nearly all biotech stocks traded on Euronext would fall below the 20,000-trade threshold. Pharming (ASX:PHR; EASD:PHAR), he noted, records about 8,700 trades a year.

To avoid discontinuous trading, Amsterdam-listed companies would have to provide either a liquidity provider or be listed elsewhere such as the LSE, the Neuer Markt or EASDAQ. The latter recently allowed secondary listings of companies that follow a European rulebook and are listed elsewhere. Among the Amsterdam stocks that would be affected are antibody company Crucell (ASX:CRUCE), tissue engineering play Isotis (ASX:ISTIS), and diagnostics company Fornix (ASX:FRNX).

The same ruling would apply to Nouveau Marche-listed biotech companies, in particular bioreactor company Quantum Appligene, drug discovery company Cerep, research supply play Stallergene, biomedical device play AlphaMOS high throughput screening and biopharmaceutical play Effik, and nitric oxide drug development company Nicox, which are not listed elsewhere. However, Paris in the past has required listing companies to have a market maker.

The Brussels exchange does not currently have any biotech stocks.

New to market

Enthusiasm for new issues remains tepid, as Harvard Bioscience (HBIO) raised $50 million in its IPO by selling 6.25 million shares at $8, well below the $75 million it would have raised had the deal gone off in its original $11-$13 range. The company, which develops, manufactures and markets products for protein purification and ADMET screening, originally filed on Sept. 18. On Tuesday, HBIO reduced the proposed range to $9-$10. The stock did pop in the aftermarket, closing Friday at $11.688, up $3.688 (46 percent) and valuing the company at $289.9 million.