Legendary “60 Minutes” reporter Mike Wallace once said: “If there’s anything that’s important to a reporter, it is integrity. It is credibility.” The same should be true for every management team. Credibility with The Street – both on the buy side and the sell side – is an extremely important element in a successful investor relations program. In this month’s Top 10 list, we offer simple practices that help build and maintain corporate credibility.
- First and Foremost: Under-promise and over-deliver.
- Make sure your message and metrics are consistent.
- Provide the appropriate level of financial transparency. 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
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.
Many factors — inside and outside your company, even outside your industry — affect how investors perceive you. Some would argue there is no such thing as a misperception; in other words, whatever investors think about your company is your reality.
But perceptions can change. If the prevailing perception is not what your management team wants it to be, there are ways to alter the perspective to be more in line with how you want to be viewed. While the efficient market hypothesis states that share prices reflect all publicly available information, investor expectations about future earnings and profitability are imbedded in today’s stock price. Shaping perceptions about the future is an important goal of successful investor relations.
Stepping outside your company to see how others view it is an essential part of perception building. Assessing how outsiders respond to the following basic questions is a good place to start:
- What does the company do?
- Who are its customers?
- How much risk is there in bringing the company’s new products to market?
- What/who is the competition?
- Does management instill and exude confidence?
- What is management’s track record?
- What do bloggers and others involved in the social media sphere say about the company?
The road show you take in conjunction with your company’s initial public offering (IPO) represents an exciting and action-packed two weeks. Over that period, you will crisscross the country, meet hundreds of potential investors and spend way too much time on airport tarmacs. While your bankers will have thoroughly prepared you to deliver your “story” to the Street, I thought it would be helpful to share some other thoughts about road shows based upon the thousands of IPO road show meetings Westwicke team members have participated in during our Wall Street careers. Here is my list of the top 10 things bankers probably won’t tell you about IPO road shows:
- You are always on stage. Be respectful and professional at all times – not just in the meeting but in the waiting area and car, as well. Often you will be traveling with an institutional salesperson so remember that this person has a relationship with the analyst or portfolio manager you are about to meet…don’t say anything that would allow them to give negative “color” to their clients.
- Let the person on the other side of the table get the question out. I see this all the time: senior management begins to answer the question in the middle of the question. Let the analyst or portfolio manager completely ask his or her question. Then, clearly answer that question. Continue Reading
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.
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
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:
Management teams often believe that marketing their company in Europe would offer a fun, worthwhile trip and could diversify their shareholder base among international investors. While it can be productive, marketing abroad can be a colossal waste of time and money, if not planned thoughtfully. Having coordinated hundreds of non-deal IR road shows in Europe, here are a few tips from the team at Westwicke:
- Do leverage an existing trip to Europe to meet with investors. Our suggestion is to combine an existing trip for business purposes or a conference appearance with a few marketing meetings. The trip is long, so it makes sense to accomplish several goals while you’re already there.
- Do ask for help. Too many companies try to “set up” European meetings themselves or through their IR firms. The reality is Europe is a different animal and it’s impossible to know every key player in each market. We suggest using one of your analysts to set up the trip. Almost all investment banks have a dedicated European sales force that is much more qualified to produce a quality set of meetings. As a quick aside, don’t hire a third party to set up the trip. You will likely end up with a lackluster schedule.
- Do focus on quality vs. quantity. We believe that more isn’t necessarily better; better is better! Often, the European sales forces at these banks are so excited to get a management team in their territory that they want to extend the trip for several more days to see a number of cities. This is a bad idea for two reasons: First, the cost of travel to these secondary cities can be off the charts. Second, these meetings often have diminishing returns. Stick to the major cities and target the best accounts.
- Do insist that the salesperson attend the meetings. Salespeople play an important role in the success of these trips, as they can give valuable insight into each meeting. For example, before every meeting, make sure you get a summary about each person’s level of interest, investment style, peer ownership and any other relevant factors that can help with the discussion.
- Do maximize your time, i.e., logistics matter. As you think about the trip, recognize that many large cities are difficult to maneuver. London, for instance, is much like Manhattan. Meetings can be all over the place and, if not properly coordinated, getting to each location can leave you missing some meetings and late for others. Make sure the investment bank setting up the meetings in each city arranges a logical and efficient schedule (which is yet, another reason to ensure the salesperson attends).