London Moves to Revive Its Reputation as a Financial Hub

Business | London Moves to Revive Its Reputation as a Financial Hub

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As fears have grown that the city is losing its attractiveness for publicly traded businesses, Britain’s government is making changes to bring them back.

Canary Wharf, one of London’s financial districts. The city is still a major global financial hub, but it faces growing competition from other markets, especially New York. Credit… Alex Ingram for The New York Times Shein, the online retail giant founded in China, had grand ambitions to go public in New York. But as relations between Washington and Beijing soured, the ultrafast fashion company began taking a closer look at a backup plan across the Atlantic.

The company is now focusing more on the London Stock Exchange for its initial public offering, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. That may not have been the company’s initial choice — but it would be a big win for Britain, which has been wary of its capital city losing its status as a global financial hub.

Jeremy Hunt, Britain’s top finance official, has reportedly courted Shein, anticipating that a major I.P.O. would bolster London’s standing as one of the world’s leading financial centers. A spokeswoman for Shein declined to comment; the British Treasury also declined to comment.

By many measures, London is still a crucial financial hub, where prices are fixed each day for precious metals, trillions of dollars of foreign currency are traded and global insurance contracts are written. But the global competition for investors — among cities like New York, Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore — is intense. Stock listing is a prominent business, and a big I.P.O. like Shein’s could be seen as a prize that bolsters the local financial market and sets the stage for other companies to follow.

In an effort to shore up London’s position, British officials are trying to overhaul the financial sector to make the city’s stock market more attractive to modern industries, particularly tech companies, rather than relying on the sectors, such as banking, that historically built London’s financial sector.

London’s reputation for financial services also took a hit after Britain’s exit from the European Union, amid concerns that banks would move money and workers to the continent. Some of those fears were overblown, but Brexit has taken a toll. Amsterdam, for example, overtook London as Europe’s largest share-trading center about three years ago, according to Cboe Global Markets.

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