Mark Twain said that the “difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
There’s a lesson in there for all of us. Say the wrong thing (or even the right thing poorly) and you’re going to underwhelm, disappoint, confuse, or even lose your listeners. And during your company’s earnings call, mistakes like that can cause a crisis.
While most of Wall Street is focusing on second quarter earnings and squeezing in vacations before Labor Day, it’s never too early to begin preparing for the J.P. Morgan 33rd Annual Healthcare Conference in San Francisco this January, the premier healthcare investment conference of the year. If you are planning to attend but haven’t started thinking about logistics, you are already a little behind. Much of the meeting space and hotel rooms are already spoken for, so the time to start making arrangements is now.
Private companies often tell us about the considerable time and effort they spend meeting with investment bankers and sharing insights on their business, out of hope that these bankers will take an interest in underwriting their IPO. Yet when we ask which sell-side research analysts they’ve met, we are typically met with a blank stare.
Many executives don’t understand the importance and value of meeting with sell-side analysts while still a private company. In fact, most management teams don’t realize that research analysts actually want to meet management teams of private companies. For sell-side analysts, meeting with private companies enables them to build an early relationship with promising companies and gain valuable insights on the industry and products.
Many early-stage companies need consistent access to capital to invest in growing the business, to fund long-term projects, or for R&D. Over the past few decades, alternate modes of funding have evolved to help public companies raise money more expeditiously. One mode of funding is at-the-market (ATM) financing, which emerged in the 1980s with utility companies looking to raise capital on an ongoing basis. From that time on, companies in a broader range of industries, both large cap and small cap, started using it, and when the market dropped in 2008, the number of companies seeking funding through ATMs rose significantly.
Today, many public-company CFOs and CEOs, especially in biotech/life sciences, consider an ATM financing part of their capital-raising arsenal. When deciding on whether or not to put an ATM in place, it is important to understand how an ATM functions, and the pros and cons. Continue Reading
For publicly traded companies, there are two types of “quiet periods”: First, there’s the heavily regulated, post-IPO period when a company cannot talk about its aims and earnings. Second, there’s the quiet period at the end of each quarter when companies stop communicating with Wall Street once they begin to get a handle on the quarterly results. While this second type isn’t regulated, it is still important to have a defined policy governing this quiet period to both guide your external communications practices (especially with analysts and investors) and to remain in compliance with Reg FD.
Quiet periods have no standardized length. These quarterly periods end, of course, with the earnings conference call and/or press release; but it’s up to each particular company to determine when they begin. Constructing the optimal quiet period will vary, depending on how quickly earnings are determined, as well as how experienced executives are with analyst and investor interactions. Following are some suggestions to help guide your company’s activities as they relate to quiet periods.
Quiet period “don’ts”
- Don’t make exceptions. Quarterly quiet periods received more attention after the enactment of Regulation FD, which prohibits companies from appearing to favor one analyst or investor over another. Once the policy is set, do not make exceptions for anyone. The most important strategy is to make sure you communicate with all audiences consistently and share the same information. Continue Reading
When designing and maintaining an investor relations strategy, how important is your company website? Pretty important, it turns out. A Thomson Reuter’s 2012 survey showed that 84% of institutional investors use a company’s IR website as part of their research process. Importantly, 74% of respondents also indicated that the IR website has an impact on their perception of the company and its IR program.
First impressions are extremely important, and your website is often your company’s first chance to make an impression. Here are some key places investors go on your website, and some tips on how you can make their experience a valuable one (for them and for you):
- Make the site easy to navigate. If a website is not laid out logically and clearly, visitors will become frustrated and give up looking. Key information – such as presentations, press releases, SEC filings and other news – needs to be displayed prominently, allowing potential investors to get to it quickly. This doesn’t just apply to the investor relations section but the entire website. Don’t make it hard for investors to learn about your company and products.
- Make sure all info is up to date and accurate. Too many times, sites continue to display information that is wrong, or outdated. This can lead investors to assume that IR is not important to the company. Continue Reading
Smaller-cap companies, like many of those in the health services, life sciences and medical technology sectors, experience more volatile stock price action than some of their mid- and large- cap peers. These small companies tend to lack the liquidity of larger firms and are therefore more vulnerable to news events (and often, big price movements will occur for no reason at all). For the executives and investor relations professionals of these companies, such price movements can be gut-wrenching.
In their quest for a solution to stock price volatility, some management teams monitor stock price movements on a daily basis and try to find explanations for this movement. This short-term focus is often non-productive and can even be distracting. It’s better for executives to concentrate on building long-term, sustainable shareholder value by providing the Street with identifiable milestones and successfully achieving those milestones.