A “miss” relative to a company’s financial guidance can happen to even the best management teams. Misses can arise from a hiccup in company operations or they can be related to factors outside your company’s control. In either case, the ways in which you assess the problem, communicate it, and follow up in later quarters will have a powerful and lasting impact on the Street’s views of management’s credibility and thus your stock’s long-term valuation.
Assessing the problem
Before you communicate with the Street, make sure you’ve honestly assessed the reason for the miss and its ongoing impact to your results. Was this merely a soft quarter for seasonal or other factors, or was there a one-time event? While it’s possible that ongoing results won’t be impacted, it’s also possible that greater forces are at play: a business segment could be maturing, or your internal growth expectations may have to be moderated. Even if the miss is truly related to an issue out of your control, such as a reimbursement change, make sure you critically evaluate the impact before you communicate any revised guidance.
If it seems to you that there is an investment banking conference every week, you’re just about right. Investment banks routinely hold investor conferences that tend to focus on certain industries (like healthcare or technology). A few Wall Street firms also hold what I’d call “best idea” conferences, which include representative companies from different industries.
Attending a conference can be a valuable part of your investor relations strategy. It’s a great way to get more investors to know your company, and to make vital business connections. But, if you have, say, 15 analysts covering your stock, and each one hosts a conference, that can mean you’re getting invited to 15+ conferences a year. How can you possibly accept every one of these invitations?
Before deciding “yea” or “nay” on attending upcoming conferences, it’s important to understand why they’re held. Decades ago, Wall Street’s equity divisions made money primarily by underwriting stock offerings and trading stocks. As institutional commissions have shrunk, trading has become much less profitable. However, while the buy side is no longer paying as much for trading execution or research services, buy side firms and analysts will pay for access to management. Therefore, Wall Street has strong incentives to arrange venues where they can introduce companies to investors.
Our clients often ask, “Why did account X sell my stock? Our last meeting with them went so well.” Generally speaking, there is one reason investors buy a stock: the assumption that its price is going up. There are, however, countless reasons why stocks are sold. Sometimes when a company’s fundamentals seem to be improving it’s not always clear why a portfolio manager might sell a particular stock. We want to shed some light on the factors that can lead to the “sell” decision via this month’s Top 10 list.
Locking in gains. No one has ever been fired for locking in gains. Even an investor who’s held your stock for years can’t be faulted for taking some money off the table.
Macro concerns or sector rotation. Even for a company that derives zero revenue from Europe and does not sell directly to the federal government, events like foreign debt defaults and sequestration cause fund managers to lighten up on stocks. In uncertain times, cash is king! Similarly, depending on the outlook of the firms’ economist, portfolio managers shift money between sectors, increasing and decreasing their exposure based on the economists’ suggestions. If healthcare is deemed an underperforming sector at a particular time, your stock might be caught in the sector rotation. Continue Reading
All management teams and boards of directors want to know how they’re doing. For public healthcare companies, the wide variety of stock indices makes it easy to draw a comparison with peer companies. But finding the right index is key to making a meaningful comparison. Just because an index includes “technology,” “healthcare” or “mid-cap” in its name doesn’t mean it’s right for you. And the most popular indices are not always the right choices.
Fund managers, especially those who may not understand nuances in various healthcare sectors, will use an index to evaluate your firm’s performance. But, comparing against the wrong index can have serious implications: for instance, if an index that includes many larger cap companies (over $1 billion in market capitalization) is rising, but smaller companies aren’t sharing this momentum, then your smaller firm will compare poorly against the index – and undeservedly so. Further, smaller companies are more vulnerable to certain financial issues than multi-billion dollar firms; access to capital, product pipelines and market volatility can have an outsized effect on a small-cap firm’s stock performance.
As CEOs and CFOs, you no doubt think long and hard about the investment bank with which you want to work. Most management teams consider which investment bankers can best help meet their company’s capital raising and strategic needs, as well as which bank’s sell-side analysts will provide quality research coverage of the company. However, it is also important to consider how impactful the bank’s institutional equity sales force is.
Whether you are already public or thinking of going public, you want to work with a sales force that has real influence in the investment community. Importantly, you want to engage a team that has solid, long-term relationships with those investors who will be buying your stock.
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.
When done well, an Analyst Day (or Investor Day) is an extremely valuable investor relations tool. Typically a half- or full-day event your company hosts for buy- and sell-side analysts, an analyst day meeting can significantly enhance an analyst’s understanding of your company’s fundamentals, as well as aid them in better valuing your stock. At Westwicke, we have participated in hundreds of analyst days over our careers, and this experience lends valuable third-party perspective that has helped many companies hold successful analyst day events. To that end, I offer some do’s and don’ts for analyst days compiled over Westwicke’s years on Wall Street:
Do hold an analyst day every 18-24 months. The event provides investors with a deeper-than-normal dive into your company, and helps demonstrate your management team’s breadth and strategic vision.
Do provide unique content. Think about including members of the management team that investors don’t normally interact with. Consider bringing in physician experts or customers to provide an outsider’s perspective on your products or market. In the planning stages, ask both buy- and sell-side analysts for input.
How do you balance your investor relations (IR) activities with the other demands on your time as a management team? How can you best align your investor relations efforts with your overall corporate strategy and messaging? Here are several tips to help ensure that the strategic investor relations plan you create at the beginning of the year will deliver the desired results:
Define your goals. In order to be successful you must identify the outcomes you want to achieve. Decide if you are trying to increase your visibility, broaden your shareholder base and/or increase sell-side coverage. Be specific with your goals and create metrics that you can use to evaluate your effectiveness.
Allocate your time. As a senior executive of a life sciences, medical technology or healthcare services company, you have many demands on your time. Ask yourself, “How much time can I afford to devote to investor relations?” While being visible is important, you don’t want to be overexposed. Your shareholders, the Street and your employees want to know that you spend more time managing your business than worrying about your stock price. Continue Reading
At this point in the year, many companies are preparing to issue 2013 guidance as part of their calendar 4Q earnings call. We thought it would be helpful to share some insights and best practices about the most effective ways for your company to issue earnings guidance.
Be realistic. Trying to figure out what you’re going to earn a year from now is difficult, and occasionally companies trip themselves up because they issue guidance that they know in their hearts is not attainable. Managements should honestly assess their prospects for the next year, haircut their internal numbers a bit, and provide guidance that feels 100% attainable.
Range or point estimate? Issuing a guidance range is always the best answer. As you consider this range, make sure it is appropriate for your company’s size and business model. Too wide of a range implies that you may not have a good handle on your business. Too narrow a range doesn’t leave any wiggle room. Continue Reading
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin
Welcome to the new blog of Westwicke, the largest healthcare-focused investor relations and capital markets advisory firm in the country. Here, we’ll be sharing wisdom, insights and knowledge about all aspects of investor relations (IR) and the capital markets with a specific emphasis on what’s important for CEOs, CFOs and IROs at life sciences, medical technology, and healthcare services/HCIT companies.
Who we are
All of the members of the Westwicke team who will be penning posts are seasoned Wall Street experts: former sell-side research analysts, buy-side analysts and portfolio managers, investment bankers, institutional salespeople, and equity capital markets professionals. We’ll be sharing our views based on our collective 200 years of Wall Street experience, a deep knowledge of the healthcare industry, and a history of successful strategic partnership with our clients.