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Germany's DAX to get bigger, stricter after Wirecard fiasco

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Germany's DAX index plans its most sweeping overhaul since its inception, adding 10 new companies and new quality controls after the implosion of Wirecard rocked investor confidence in the gauge.

[FRANKFURT] Germany's DAX index plans its most sweeping overhaul since its inception, adding 10 new companies and new quality controls after the implosion of Wirecard rocked investor confidence in the gauge.

Index operator Qontigo, a unit of Deutsche Boerse, will boost the number of members to 40 from 30 in the third quarter of next year, it said in a statement. Qontigo will also impose new criteria on both existing and prospective DAX members, including a requirement to publish quarterly statements and audited annual results, with a fast exit for those failing to releasing them on time.

The changes come after the implosion of Wirecard, the fintech that was a DAX member for two years despite repeated allegations of irregularities. When it collapsed in June, pressure to overhaul the index mounted as existing rules didn't allow for the benchmark's first-ever insolvent member to be ejected right away. After that, the index makers undertook a four-week long consultation with more than 600 market participants before adjusting the rules.

"Europe's benchmark indexes are generally too narrow compared to US equity indices," said Frederik Hildner, Salm-Salm & Partner portfolio manager. "I very much like the fact that these are a better proxy for the economy, whereas narrow large-cap indices are oftentimes heavily impacted by sharp moves of large constituents. So I tend to like the upcoming extension of the index."

For prospective new members, the potential benefits are big, with about US$17 billion in exchange-traded funds tracking the index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Among the most likely stocks for inclusion would be the largest stocks in Germany's MDAX index, which include Airbus, Siemens Healthineers, Sartorius, Zalando, Knorr-Bremse and Hannover Rueck.

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Entry for new members will be based on market cap, a general liquidity threshold and the new qualitative criteria, with the index owner dropping its previous methodology of rankings which included the volume of shares traded. New members will also need to have been profitable for the past two years.

Delivery Hero joined the DAX in August to replace Wirecard, and some investors expressed unease about the fact that the Berlin food-delivery firm had never reported an annual profit. Had the new rules already been in place, it would not have been eligible to join.

The earnings reporting requirements will become effective during the first-quarter index review, along with a mandate for companies to include an audit committee on their supervisory board. Existing members that don't yet have an audit committee will get until August 2022 to adapt to the new rule.

The only proposal that was not adopted would have banned companies involved in "controversial weapons." According to Qontigo, this would have affected one current member of the MDAX.

BLOOMBERG

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