“In spite of delays in finalising the business plan which has to be submitted for approval by the Financial Services Commission before a licence is granted, the local protagonists of GibEX — the Rock’s own stock exchange — anticipate that it could be up and running early in the summer. Although legislation which would allow the exchange to come into being and then operate was rushed through the House of Assembly at its final sitting last year, top-level and sensitive negotiations with one of the powerful partners in the deal took longer than anticipated, James Levy QC, the senior partner at international law firm Hassans, told me recently.   However, in spite of the delays the business plan would be submitted to Financial Services Commissioner Marcus Killick “almost immediately”. Suggestions that the scheme would never get off the drawing-board were groundless, Levy insisted.   “There has been a lot of optimistic hype and a time scale which was equally optimistic — and probably unattainable given the other work the FSC has to handle,” an expert working closely with the project told me. “And though Marcus [Killick, the FSC Commissioner] is sympathetic and has indicated that he would like to see the bourse kick off, you cannot expect him or his staff to drop everything else just to give the go-ahead to GibEX.”

Assured of the support of a major European bourse and an injection of capital and know-how from one of the biggest market-makers on both sides of the Atlantic, GibEX, will go ahead. Trading in cash products such as stocks, funds and currencies will come on stream when the exchange opens, while derivatives, futures and options will be traded later.

Amendments to existing legislation which opened the legal doors to licensing the exchange were adopted by the Rock’s House of Assembly when it met a few days before Christmas in its last sitting of 2006. And the Government, which encouraged plans for the proposed exchange from the outset, will take a small shareholding as an investor in the £2.6 million project, says Daniel Feetham, a partner in local law firm Hassans who has spent months negotiating the arrangements and details that will bring GibEx to life.

Its establishment will bring Gibraltar into line with other smaller jurisdictions such as Jersey, Malta and Cyprus all of which operate successful markets.

“There is a lot of interest and currently we are looking for strategic partners who could add value in terms of expertise in capital markets and exchanges,’ Feetham explains. “At the most there will be two more of these, and at present we are in serious discussion with one or two leading market names.”