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 Partners:
- 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).
Management teams and IR professionals tend to take stock rating downgrades personally. While a downgrade may sting on the day of, in the long run all stocks’ ratings are subject to fluctuations – both up and down. To get a better feel for how the buy-side reacts to ratings downgrades, we reached out to both buy-side analysts and portfolio managers to get some real-time feedback. The conclusion? In general, the buy-side really doesn’t care about the rating on a particular stock. The representatives we spoke to clearly are more interested in learning as much as possible about a company and are less interested in a stock’s label.
Following are ten direct quotes about this topic that speak to why analyst ratings really don’t matter:
- “I don’t care about analyst ratings. I do my own research and try not to let the sell-side influence me.”
- “I love analyst downgrades because it gives me an opportunity to buy the stock.”
- “Most of the time I don’t even know what their ratings are, I just talk to the analysts that know the company the best.”
- “I’ve done this for long enough to know that more than half of them are wrong on their ratings.”
- “Sometimes ratings are based on momentum and not fundamentals. I invest in fundamentals.” Continue Reading
Some management teams are reluctant to meet with hedge fund managers. While planning a road show or conference appearance, they try to meet with “long only” fund managers. While I can understand that management teams are reluctant to meet with hedge fund managers out of fear of a tense line of questioning or some form of brow beating during the meeting, the reality is that you can’t (and shouldn’t) avoid these meetings. The sheer number of hedge funds is staggering and almost $2 trillion dollars are under management within these funds.
Following are the top ten positive reasons management teams and IR professionals should keep hedge funds on the schedule:
- Don’t judge the book by its cover. Hedge funds come in a variety of flavors. Funds can differentiate themselves by investment style, sector focus, geography, market cap, market neutral, long/short, etc. You may even be surprised to learn that some hedge funds are long-only or exclusively long-term oriented.
- Despite their depiction by the popular press, not all hedge fund managers are “bad guys.” Many hedge fund managers are smart, considerate, thoughtful, long-term investors. Don’t let the structure of their fund dictate if you meet with them. Continue Reading
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
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