Last year was the first in which investors outside Asia were given the opportunity to have their say in IR magazine’s Asia investor perception study (IPS), the survey that forms the basis of annual awards events in Singapore, Hong Kong and mainland China. This year the new methodology and trying market conditions helped ensure some changes to the line-up of winners compared with previous years.
Undeterred by the tirade of doom-mongering and the threat of a stagnating world economy, over 400 IR professionals turned up to celebrate success at the IR Magazine Hong Kong and Taiwan Awards in Hong Kong on December 11 and the IR Magazine China Awards in Beijing on December 16.
Hong Kong highlights
Despite the worst 12 months for the banking sector in living memory, financials were well represented among the winners in Hong Kong. The grand prix for best overall investor relations by a large-cap Hong Kong company went to Hang Seng Bank. Like many banks, it hasn’t had an easy time of it lately. In October the institution found itself at the center of questions about its exposure to failed Washington Mutual Bank. Fortunately, the exposure has failed to do long-term damage to Hang Seng, whose credibility and share price remain resilient.
Investors praised the bank, which benefited from being perceived as a safe haven with a high dividend yield and prudent management. ‘Hang Seng provides the best service for investors with good information, good involvement by management and strong risk management,’ commented one respondent to the IPS.
Patrick Chan, executive director and CFO of Hang Seng Bank, thinks the company works harder than most to forge close links with investors and other stakeholders. ‘At Hang Seng, we understand that developing trusting relationships with the investment community is essential to building and maintaining investor confidence over the long term,’ he points out.
Chan says one of the bank’s key strengths is its work with stakeholders. ‘Our efforts in establishing strong, lasting partnerships form the foundation of our business success and have supported our growth to become one of the 30 largest listed banks in the world,’ he explains.
The only grand prix not won by a bank went to technology firm Lenovo Group. It won best overall investor relations by a PRC-domiciled small or mid-cap company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Things haven’t been plain sailing for Lenovo, either. As well as getting flak for its costly acquisition of IBM PC, it recently announced a bigger-than-expected net loss of $96.7 mn for its fiscal third quarter, prompting a management reshuffle.
Gary Ng, head of IR at Lenovo, says the key IR focus over the last year has been the IBM PC integration. ‘Investors remained skeptical about its success, so the focus of the IR program was really to update and educate the market about the integration,’ he says. ‘As we began to deliver results, this reinforced investors’ perception of our capability and credibility in driving cross-border integration success.’
Beyond Hong Kong
From Taiwan, Rodney Liu, head of IR at Delta Electronics, picked up the award for best investment meetings. Communicating the various elements of his firm’s corporate profile is one of his biggest challenges, he says. ‘One of the top priorities of our IR effort is not only to tell investors the financial numbers but also to help them understand the stories and implications behind the numbers,’ he explains.
The grand prix for best overall IR by a large-cap Taiwanese company went to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), a consistent favorite with investors. TSMC has won the grand prix eight years in a row since the inception of the IR Magazine Hong Kong and Taiwan Awards.
The mainland China awards in Beijing yielded more high-profile winners among banks, despite the turmoil in the financial sector. Jin Shaoliang from Ping An Insurance, the winner of best IRO at a PRC-domiciled company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, also helped lead his team to victory in Beijing, winning four awards including the grand prix for a non-state-owned enterprise (SOE).
Jin won the admiration of investors and analysts during a very busy year for Ping An. The Chinese insurer hit the international headlines when it bought 50 percent of the asset management division of Belgium’s Fortis. As IR magazine went to press, Ping An announced it would be voting against management at Fortis’ general assembly meeting in Brussels. In a relatively rare example of investor activism emerging from China, Ping An has publicly lambasted what it calls the destruction of Fortis’ shareholder value, something it believes has been caused by pressure from the Belgian government to sell Fortis assets.
Jin thinks speed of response is part of the reason Ping An is rated so highly for IR. ‘We also make sure we are always providing a good communication platform for the investors and the management,’ he says.
Jin and the team hit the road regularly on deal and non-deal roadshows, and he benefits from being able to get his management on the road with him. ‘In addition to normal IR service, we provide a phone service seven days a week, 24 hours a day,’ he adds. ‘In order to provide better service to the retail investors, we provide periodic internet conferences, too.’
The biggest winner in China, however, was undoubtedly China Merchants Bank, a perennial favorite at the IR Magazine China Awards ever since 2006 when it became the first Chinese bank to list both H-shares and A-shares and began ‘aggressively’ building its IR program, as secretary to the board Qi Lan told IR magazine last year.
The Chinese bank has also been noticeably active in acquisitions, completing its purchase of Hong Kong grand prix winner Wing Lung Bank in January 2009. China Merchants picked up six trophies for its efforts, including the SOE categories for best corporate governance and best corporate literature.
Hong Kong & Taiwan success
Grand prix for best IR by a PRC-domiciled large-cap company listed in Hong Kong
Grand prix for best overall investor relations by a Taiwanese company – small or mid-cap
Best IR by a CEO at a PRC-domiciled firm listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange
Wei Jiafu – China Cosco Holdings
Best investor relations by a CEO at a Taiwanese company
JT Wang – Acer
Best investor relations by a US-listed Chinese company
Best IR website by a small or mid-cap company
China Resources Enterprise
How we picked the winners
The winners of the IR Magazine Hong Kong and Taiwan Awards and the IR Magazine China Awards won the most votes from the investors that own their stock and the analysts who cover them. They did not win because their stock price went up or because they’re the largest, most popular firms. They won because they have the best transparency, access and responsiveness, as judged by investment professionals.
This year we improved and expanded the research behind our three awards events in Asia. Netherlands-based Rematch conducted the independent survey between August 14 and October 15, 2008. It used data from institutions that invest in at least one of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines or Indonesia, either directly or through one or more funds.
The extensive research findings for this year’s awards are compiled in the Investor Perception Study, Asia 2008/2009. The report includes verbatim comments from analysts and portfolio managers on their selections as well as their thoughts on many other IR topics.
For further information and to order your copy, contact David Barrett at +44 20 7251 7521.