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NYSE seeks to tweak direct-listing rules to attract startups

The New York Stock Exchange in March filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission seeking to change its listing standards for direct listings to attract highly valued startups, The Wall Street Journal wrote May 26.

The SEC has until June 29 to approve or reject the proposed changes, or launch deliberations that could delay a final decision for months.

The SEC's approval would remove an obstacle that prevents companies such as Spotify from using direct listings, which allow companies to have their shares trade publicly, without raising money as in a traditional initial public offering, and without the restrictions of lock-up periods, the report stated.

Spotify, a music-streaming service which was last valued at $8.5 billion, has been seeking input from bankers and the NYSE over the workings of a direct listing. The Swedish company could go public as soon as late 2017, according to people familiar with the matter. The NYSE, a unit of Intercontinental Exchange Inc., which won the highly anticipated IPO of Snap Inc. could net the debut of Spotify if the company goes public as planned, people familiar with the company's plans added.

However, Nasdaq Inc. has completed about a half-dozen direct listings since 2006, while the NYSE had none.

In its May 16 letter to SEC, the NYSE told the regulator that the change in listing standards would address a "significant competitive disadvantage" it faces against Nasdaq, the WSJ reported.

If Spotify is successful in securing the direct listing and its stock performs well, other startups may follow suit. Airbnb Inc. is said to be among the companies watching Spotify's debut to assess whether it could do something similar if it goes public, people familiar with the home-rental service company's plans said.