Over time, all management teams want to build relationships, or at least a healthy rapport, with shareholders. Consistent execution of your business plan and proper communication with current and potential shareholders can help you build credibility, which in turn can bolster your company’s valuation and even allow your management team to earn “the benefit of the doubt” when things are not easy.
Last month, we looked at the top 10 ways companies can build credibility with shareholders. This month, we consider the opposite, and explore common ways companies get into hot water. Here are the top 10 credibility busters you want to work hard to avoid.
“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.
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
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
While not all investor meetings require a walk through of your company’s slide deck, meetings with potential new shareholders almost always start with the investor presentation. To ensure that your audience fully appreciates your story, it’s key that your IR deck be clear, concise, and compelling.
Here are 5 tips for refreshing your IR deck to ensure your company’s story and opportunity is properly conveyed:
- Clearly explain your business. The most common mistake we see is companies launching into their story before telling the audience exactly what they do. Make sure you allocate ample time early in the discussion to explain your business. If you lose them in the first ten minutes because they don’t fully understand what you do, the rest of the meeting is a waste of time.
- Make sure your industry numbers are correct. When discussing your market opportunity, make sure your numbers make sense and are correct. The fastest way to kill a meeting is to base your assumptions on figures that you can’t back up factually. Management teams lose credibility when the numbers don’t jive.
- Articulate your growth strategy. Once investors figure out what you do and that you have a large market opportunity, the rest of the discussion is easy and should focus on your growth strategy. Senior management teams need to clearly articulate both near-term and long-term growth strategies for the company. Continue Reading
Westwicke has been partnering with public companies for over seven years, and in that time we’ve helped companies effectively communicate to the Street.
We’ve compiled a list of best practices to engage in when it comes to your investor relations strategy.
- Cover both the good and the bad. It is easy to highlight the positive news and trends impacting your company and to gloss over the negatives. The best companies do a great job providing balanced information.
- Stay visible. After reporting a mixed quarter, it is important to maintain a dialog with your shareholders. Investors want to be reassured by the senior management that you are on top of managing the company.
- Adapt. Recognize that the metrics you provide to the Street need to evolve to best demonstrate the health of your business and to allow the investment community to gauge your progress. Continue Reading
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?
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