Mark Hynes - thoughts on corporate disclosure

Opinions on changing rules, changing best practices, and their effect on investor relations officers.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A really enjoyable seminar.

To Brussels to speak at that rare thing – a seminar that delivered real value for all participants. The School of Business Media and Politics (no, I hadn’t either – its new) held a discussion forum entitled “Capital Interests – The challenges of financial communications”.

There were several things that for me, made this different. First, it was a pleasant change to be focussing on best practice rather than regulation.

Next, the seminar was genuinely interactive. Everybody – panellists and attendees – had experiences and views aplenty, and shared them. Clearly there are no ‘right answers’ to many of the issues discussed, so the views of all had particular interest.

The themes were thoroughly pertinent. How to deal with financial journalists with an agenda, and accommodate their need for speed. A fascinating insight to the world of private equity – and the benefits of transparency as a vehicle for increasing access to capital in these difficult time. Some great case studies of miscommunication – why is it always easier to learn from where things have wrong? The connection between positive perception and enhancing a stock price.

However a particular highlight for me was hearing from one of the doyens of the PR industry (Angus Maitland) on shareholder activism. From TCI’s battle with Deutsche Boerse over the acquisition of the LSE, to the current turmoil over the Italian insurer Generali, we looked at who the activists are, what they want, and how they operate, and in particular how to deal with them.

A couple of sound bites: “whether activists are a good thing or bad, depends on your vantage point”. “No-one is safe”. “As the markets falter, the activists are only going to get stronger”, and “Activists require the oxygen of publicity to raise funds”.

So a very worthwhile event.


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