Germany to reform stock option rules in effort to rival Silicon Valley

BERLIN, GERMANY – April 09: Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz, SPD, makes a press statement before a video conference of the Euro Group on April 09, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.

Thomas Imo

LONDON — Germany will soon unveil new legislation on employee stock options within days, a government official said Thursday, in a bid to attract top technology talent and rival Silicon Valley.

The German government will introduce regulatory reforms on such options — which give start-up employees the chance to own shares in their company — to “incentivize start-up investment in our country,” said Jörg Kukies, state secretary at country’s finance ministry.

Kukies, who was speaking at a virtual event organized by venture capital firm Index Ventures and start-up conference Slush, said the new proposals would be revealed in a matter of days.

“You will see all the details very soon,” he said, adding that Germany is hoping to incentivize international VC funds to set up shop in the country with competitive tax regime and fund laws. Large Silicon Valley start-up investors have been creeping into Europe of late, Sequoia being among the most notable.

Index — along with hundreds of European tech entrepreneurs — has for years been calling for pan-European reforms to update and align EU rules on employee stock options. According to Index, Germany ranks among the worst countries when it comes to staff share schemes.

Earlier this year, France introduced a package of reforms to lure in tech talent and compete with America’s top tech hub. The new rules expand France’s stock options scheme to include foreign companies with staff in the country.

It comes as the EU intensifies talks regarding Big Tech and its impact on the competitive landscape. France and the Netherlands recently proposed stricter EU rules on firms like Google, Facebook and Amazon — including options to break them up.

Europe’s tech ecosystem has grown considerably over the last decade but it has yet to create digital giants that can claim to compete with that of large tech groups in the U.S. and China. Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in the continent believe that more tech-friendly reforms could help change that.

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