Mark Hynes - thoughts on corporate disclosure

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

Thursday, July 10, 2008

IR expertise in Eastern Europe is spreading, but challenges remain.

And so to Zagreb to moderate a “Best Practice in IR” course. A few years (months?) ago that would have been an extraordinary statement. But now markets in Eastern Europe are developing their IR expertise – and very fast.

Last week I had the pleasure to work for 2 days with the leading companies in Croatia, and to offer thoughts on developing a world class investor relations programme.

As so often, the levels of exposure to international equity markets, and the processes of creating and communicating the company’s equity story, were very varied. 2 attendees had worked in IR for many years. Others worked at companies – for example recently privatised – whose IR programmes were in the middle of development.

However for all, the challenges remain. If market turbulence impacts US and European main market companies, they present significantly greater difficulties to companies from emerging market countries.

For example, an absence of liquidity on the Zagreb stock exchange, which is itself in the new ‘frontier’ equity market category created by Morgan Stanley’s MSCI. Winning equity analyst coverage remains a considerable issue, as does the perennial issue of adequate free float.

Nonetheless, Croatian IR remains ambitious. HANFA, the local regulator, is on a fast track process of upgrading its disclosure, market abuse and corporate governance obligations. This is aimed at creating a regime which stands comparison with EU directives such as the Transparency Obligations Directive, Market Abuse and others. The investor presentations, IR websites and PR programmes are improving very rapidly. And in many cases companies have a great story to tell.

Watch this space for Croatian companies hitting the international roadshow circuit very soon.


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