A late 19th and early 20th century ‘corporate lag’ has been identified as a cause of Britain's 20th century economic ‘decline’. However, the number of publicly traded companies increased significantly during this period and as of 1914 the market for shares was well-developed by international standards. This chapter explains matters by reference to the ‘sell side’ and ‘buy side’. On the sell side, dilution of control became more palatable as the drive to generate profits ebbed, periodic surges in investor optimism yielded generous exit terms and capital was required to execute mergers. On the buy side, Britain was losing ground to its major economic rivals and company law, financial intermediaries and the press offered weak protection to outside investors. However, the relative investment performance of shares, the regional orientation of many public offerings, the signalling properties of dividends, and occasional investment ‘fads’ all served to fortify demand for shares.
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