Investor meetings are essential for managing and expanding your shareholder base. They provide investors with clarity on a company’s story and can allow you to gauge potential investor concerns, but most importantly, they provide management the opportunity to control the story being told to investors.
The buy side often views a meeting with management as a critical component in their due diligence process. Even in the wake of increased scrutiny from SEC regulators regarding Reg FD, these meetings give the buy side more insight into a company story, recent developments, and potential headwinds.
Hiring an investor relations (IR) firm isn’t easy because it’s not a simple decision. A tremendous amount rides on the relationship you are able to cultivate with investors and shareholders, so you need total trust and confidence in your IR partner.
Making the choice more difficult is that IR consulting firms vary widely, and what gets promised up front doesn’t always hold true. The spectrum ranges from firms that offer IR as one of many services to those that specialize only in IR. While it might seem reasonable to just pick one and get to work, the reality is that the relationship you build with investors and Wall Street represents a core part of your business strategy with a real impact on your perception in the markets.
How can you choose wisely? Finding the right fit takes time and research. IR firms aren’t one-size-fits-all, and the right choice requires you to stop and ask some hard questions, starting with these essential eight.
“Why is there so much short interest in my stock?” Many executives find themselves asking this question, especially when it seems things are going well. Stocks have been “shorted” for many years now, but there is no doubt that the practice has seen much wider use – and brought about more management frustration – in recent years. Doesn’t short selling expose funds to unlimited losses? Why do investors take the risk?
Much like with negative analysts, the most tempting answer – and biggest misconception – is to believe it is personal. It might be true that your short investors don’t like you. But that is not the reason they put in that short order.
Sell-side analysts hold big sway with the investment community, and can help your company’s potential to attract investors. To work in your favor, analysts must know the ins and outs of why your company or product represents the next best thing in the marketplace. They also need confidence in your company’s potential to make it to the next level.
While the reputation of sell-side analysts came under fire with conflict of interest stories this past decade, and new regulations helped level the playing field, analysts continue to play powerful roles in the marketplace, and companies are wise to nurture strong relationships. What’s it like in today’s market from the sell-side point of view? And how can you better your chances of making it on analysts’ coverage lists and receiving a coveted “Buy” rating? Continue Reading
Over the last decade, various regulatory adjustments have dramatically changed the buy-side/sell-side scenario and how companies interact with both sides of The Street. In 2000, the SEC adopted Regulation FD, which aims to promote the full and fair disclosure of information by publicly traded companies. Two years later, Sarbanes-Oxley mandated reforms to enhance corporate transparency and reduce conflicts of interest among securities analysts. Crucially, today, management teams need to provide the same information to both sell- and buy-side analysts.
The following are a few tips to help you better manage your analyst relationships:
- Keep the talking points consistent between the sell-side and buy-side analysts. Regulation FD mandates that you treat both sides equally. Be straightforward, transparent and candid with both. Shareholders that receive different information from the analysts will take this as a red flag.
- Appreciate the nuances between buy- and sell-side analysts. It’s important to understand that buy- and sell-side analysts have different jobs and play different roles. For instance, the sell-side analyst needs to have a price target over the next year. The buy-side analyst may create a target price over the next three years. As a result, each may interpret the exact same information differently. Continue Reading
All public companies face the challenges of helping the investment community understand their business—how they’ll grow, how fast they’ll grow, what investments are required, and what kind of volatility there may be in their financial results. Those companies that can effectively communicate how they will grow, and then execute predictably, have the greatest potential to earn higher-than-average valuations over the long term.
The practice of providing financial guidance is a powerful tool for helping the market realistically frame its expectations for your performance, as well as for decreasing the likelihood that your actual results will miss the Street’s expectations in the near term. And indeed, according to IR Magazine, 68 percent of companies worldwide provide earnings guidance to investors at some point during the year, to create greater transparency for their shareholders and analysts.
Whether notification comes from an open filing with the SEC, a private letter or an inbound call, the mere presence of an activist investor or fund in a company’s stock is enough to put even the most stalwart management team on edge. In recent years, the growth of specialty and hedge funds has led to a dramatic increase in shareholder activism, which has brought both problems and benefits to investors and managements.
One important point to keep in mind when dealing with activists is that despite their loud voices, activist shareholders’ opinions should not outweigh those of other shareholders. That said, as shareholders, activists’ opinions are important and can be very helpful if approached with an open mind, as most activists seek increases in a company’s share price just as management teams do.
However, interests often diverge with the time frames and methods each would like to see. Activists often seek to unlock existing value as rapidly as possible, often through reorganization and austerity, while management teams often take a longer-term view that focuses on investment and franchise expansion. Depending on the specific case, either approach could be the best path for shareholders as a whole.
We have been fortunate, and sometimes unfortunate, to have observed hundreds of companies go through an initial public offering (IPO) process, and then begin trading as a public company. What is astounding is how frequently healthcare IPOs “blow up” within the first few quarters of their public life. This happens so much so that a small group of investors has made a career of buying these broken IPOs. Why? Because they know that a broken IPO does not necessarily make a broken company.
The challenge, of course, is that once a newly priced IPO blows up, and the stock drops to a point where it is deemed broken, there is an incredible amount of work, credibility re-building, energy and time required to gain back lost valuation and earn back Wall Street’s trust.
Why do companies blow up and when does permanent credibility damage occur? Here are the most common issues that we see:
As my hairs have gotten grayer in the last decade, I can’t help but to have noticed the major transformation that has altered how humans interact with one another. The digital revolution has permeated every facet of my life (as I’m sure it has yours): from how I get my news, to how I stay in touch with my family, to how I do business each day.
The “greatest generation” (i.e., those who grew up during the Great Depression) saw the widespread adoption of telephones and television sets. This generation spent the majority of its working years communicating through pen and paper, typewriters, and “snail mail.” The children of this generation—i.e., the “baby boomers”—grew up with much more access to information than their parents, but the information was not immediate, not “in your face,” and not coming at you from half a dozen devices at once. The way these two generations worked was very different, but the two groups’ outlooks were not necessarily in opposition. Like me, many of you reading this are probably part of Generation X or Generation Y. While we also have distinct world views and experiences compared to the generations who preceded us, we still are markedly different from the youngest members of today’s work force.
Unless you’ve been stranded on a distant planet, you’ve noticed that equity markets have been hitting new highs lately, and that’s been accompanied by an increasingly robust capital markets environment, even including initial public offerings (IPOs). In fact, the current public healthcare IPO backlog stands at 14, with many more companies already confidentially initiating plans to pursue going public over the remainder of the year.
As recently as six months ago when we would meet with CFOs and CEOs of private companies (or their venture investors), they would have long lists of reasons why their company would never go public. The reasons included cost of capital, the hassle of being a public company, legal requirements, and compliance costs. All of these are particular burdens for smaller companies. In addition, if executives or investors were looking for an exit, they calculated better valuations if they sold to a strategic acquirer or private equity firm. An IPO was truly an option of last resort. Today, when we meet with these same constituents, we see a dramatic shift in their attitude towards going public.
Changing Tides for Healthcare Companies
So what has changed? The overall equity markets are much stronger, IPOs are getting done and trading up in the aftermarket and sentiment from the buy-side has become much more favorable. Some of this positive change has to be credited to the federal JOBS Act—a series of measures that allows private companies to become public in ways that are less burdensome and less costly.