In the world of small-cap healthcare, we have observed that the class of asset managers who are collectively referred to as “hedge funds” are often viewed negatively by executive management teams, particularly those that are new to the public markets.
This tendency is understandable in light of the fact that hedge funds, as a whole, most often attract media attention when they’ve disclosed a sizable position in a company with activist intentions (“corporate raiders”), or when they’ve come under the scrutiny of regulators. These high-profile examples distort the public perception of hedge funds overall.
So you thought you were on the fast track to go public. You selected underwriters, increased investor outreach, prepared the organization, and probably attended a few conferences. But suddenly the markets turned, volatility came back, and the IPO window closed!
This is exactly the scenario that many companies have been facing this year. The NASDAQ Index is down 1.6% and the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index is down 20.8% year to date — not exactly ideal conditions to take your company public. However, sentiment has been improving recently, and the Volatility Index is at lower levels. The IPO window may indeed reopen soon, and if your goal is to go public when it does, we encourage you to use this time proactively.
It would be great if you could attend every investor conference you’re invited to. After all, they’re an excellent way to tell your story, deepen your relationships with analysts who cover you, begin new relationships with analysts who don’t yet cover you, and ultimately target and attract new investors.
But it’s impossible for any public company to go to all of them. There are more than 100 Wall Street conferences in healthcare alone, and many more focused on growth-oriented companies of any industry.
Warren Buffet makes news each year for his letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders. By employing his uniquely wry and contrarian style and by covering many topics that have little direct bearing on Berkshire’s results or prospects, Buffet has taken one of the staple obligations of a public company CEO, and turned it into something much larger — a kind of State of the Union from the desk of one of our most important business leaders.
It’s impressive. And as you get ready to release your own annual letter, you may be tempted to take a page from the Buffett playbook and offer your shareholders a bit of your own wit and wisdom.
Let’s be honest: Market conditions have been hostile to most industries this year, and the healthcare sectors have been victimized along with all the rest. These are not easy days to be the chief executive or chief financial officer of a public company, and you may be feeling pressure to take action to drive your share price up despite the headwinds.
It’s been several years since Wall Street last saw a period of sustained bearishness — long enough that some of today’s public companies have actually never been through such a difficult time. A lot of companies are hitting the panic button. We recommend the opposite.
As an institutional sales person covering the Boston region for over 15 years, I have sat through countless non-deal road show meetings with investors. The best-managed and most insightful meetings I witnessed were with a small-cap growth portfolio manager who ran over $4 billion in mutual fund assets.
While past posts on non-deal road shows have addressed their benefits, and on how to make them effective for the company seeking investment, this time I would like to consider the long-term investor’s perspective. What are their expectations and what do they hope to accomplish through these meetings? I have summoned the views of the previously mentioned PM and would like to share them with you:
I’ve written before on collaboration between the information “silos” that exist within some organizations and why it is important to establish — and stick to — an internal control process for issuing public information. The other morning, I was reminded why this is so important … and the consequences of what can happen when it breaks down.
Shortly after market open, I received a call from a CFO saying he was surprised by a press release that his company had issued pre-market, about which he was already getting calls from analysts with questions. He had to go to his own company’s website to see what had been released. My second call was from the General Counsel of that same company asking how they could add a Forward Looking Statement paragraph on a material release that had already been issued, as well as make corrections to outdated language in the “About the Company” section.
At-The-Market (ATM) offerings represent a way for public companies to sell shares and raise capital while creating little disruption in the marketplace. Like their abbreviated namesake, they can be drawn upon intermittently and at will as long as there is enough trading liquidity on a daily basis.
Since ATMs essentially supply secondary market demand for a company’s stock with newly issued shares, they can be confidentially utilized at almost any time. This is where a strategic investor relations program comes in, because such institutional demand can be fostered only by the active engagement of investors through a mixture of non-deal road shows, conference attendance, one-on-one conference calls, quarterly earnings calls, an engaging content-rich website, news releases, and even investor days.
Anyone who pays attention to Wall Street knows that 2016 has gotten off to a bruising start. The Dow is off nearly 7 percent since the beginning of the year, and more than 10 percent since peaking last May. The S&P 500 and NASDAQ Composite Index have seen similar declines since their peaks.
That’s a tough environment in which to go public. And, indeed, not a single company did so in January, the first month in more than four years that lacked an IPO. Right now, investors just aren’t sure how to value new offerings while the broader market continues its correction.
Recently we assisted a client that was announcing an important corporate update (in this case clinical data) and vital context regarding future events. We decided the material was significant enough to warrant being presented in person, so that ruled out the option of just hosting a conference call.
The next decision was how to proceed. Many companies host Analyst Days, a half- or full-day presentation space in New York (typically). While Analyst Days are great, we had developed three key message points with the company, and these were crucial. Our definition of success was that these messages be clear, concise and delivered with impact. We worried that these messages might de diluted in a half day presentation.