IR Magazine Canada Awards 2009

May 01, 2009
<p>Interviews with the winners and discussions on the value of experience during tough financial times</p>

It was a mix of old favorites and new players at the IR Magazine Canada Awards on February 5 in Toronto. CN, for example, took home the mega-cap grand prix for the seventh time in nine years. Bob Noorigian, head of IR since 1996, is ‘something of an IR legend and simply the best communicator I know,’ said one analyst in the awards survey.

The secret to CN’s success? An open, honest and ongoing dialogue. ‘As IROs, we get very focused on accentuating the positive,’ Noorigian says. ‘But you don’t want an Oh my God hanging out there. At CN, we try to give both the positive and the negative.’

Noorigian also picked up best corporate governance, among other awards, and he confirms that the investment community has been focusing more on directors after the failure of some major US companies in the past year. ‘The world has changed,’ he notes. ‘Investors and analysts now ask about the size of the board and the independence of directors; they ask about compensation and how it’s determined.’

Considering the turmoil all around, ARC Energy Trust, which won the large-cap grand prix for the first time, had a great 2008: it was one of the few energy stocks with a positive total return, it joined the S&P/TSX 60, and it published its first corporate responsibility report. David Carey, ARC’s senior vice president of capital markets, will assume the CIRI chair in June.

Also new to the running, Vancouver biotech company Allon Therapeutics had a market cap at the end of August 2008 of only $70 mn, yet it does all its own IR and public relations.

‘I see IR as non-stop,’ says Aaron Keay, IR manager, who came to Toronto to collect the small-cap grand prix. ‘Any time we’re on the road, we go to see all our analysts and investors. Then, when it comes to doing a financing, people are already up to date.’

Back with the tried and true, it was the fourth year in a row that mid-cap grand prix-winning Cineplex Entertainment took top honors. This time survey respondents applauded the company for explaining its different revenue streams, which Pat Marshall, vice president of communications and investor relations, says was a conscious effort over the past two years in response to investment community requests.

New territory
Agnico-Eagle Mines’ CFO, David Garofalo, is a busy man. He estimates that he and Agnico-Eagle’s CEO, Sean Boyd, between them had 300 to 400 one-on-one meetings with investors in 2008, with IR taking up one quarter to one third of his time.

The firm is building five new mines, taking its total to six, and last year raised around $1 bn, including around $400 mn in equity, ‘making sure we have more than adequate liquidity to realize new objectives as well as our internal goals,’ explains Garofalo, winner of best IR by a CFO (small to large cap).

Suncor took home an award it hasn’t won before, best practice of corporate social responsibility, for its renewable energy programs and good aboriginal relations around its oil sands development. Suncor has been part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index since its inception, and has released sustainability reports every other year since 1995.

John Rogers, Suncor’s vice president of investor relations, says that beyond dedicated SRI funds, mainstream portfolio managers are asking more questions about environmental and social issues. ‘They have become aware of the future potential liabilities and they want to know more about them,’ Rogers explains.

With around 70 percent of Research In Motion’s (RIM) shares held in the US, it’s no wonder it won best IR in the US market by a Canadian company. Vice president of IR Edel Ebbs organizes a large US investor day and she would like to add a further event in the fall.

‘It’s a great opportunity to meet a broad spectrum of our management team, especially for new people picking up coverage,’ Ebbs points out. Another goal for 2009 is to expand RIM’s shareholder base outside of North America.

Trinidad Drilling achieved most progress in investor relations after hiring Lisa Ciulka in April 2008. A New Zealander, Ciulka learned the IR craft as a business analyst at EnCana – ‘a great training ground,’ she says. In 2004 she was named investor relations manager at Esprit Energy Trust, which was later acquired by Pengrowth Energy Trust.

CGI Group, winner of best IR website (small to large cap), is quickly growing its IR program beyond the bounds of its 300,000-visitors-a-month website. ‘There are so many new tools in the Web 2.0 world, whether it’s blogging, 
podcasting or even Twitter,’ says Lorne Gorber, vice president of global communications and IR.

His team has a new Twitter account, earnings calls and CGI Viewpoints recordings are available as podcasts on iTunes, and stakeholders are flocking to the company’s unofficial Facebook and LinkedIn pages. CGI has internal blogs and Gorber, who is president of CIRI Quebec, is exploring a ‘proper’ public blog. ‘But it’s got to be genuine,’ he finishes.

Talk shows
Like other banks, TD Bank Financial Group came under the microscope in 2008. ‘You don’t necessarily have all the answers and that can be uncomfortable. But we deliberately chose to be more communicative, and Ed Clark is a great communicator,’ says Tim Thompson, senior vice president of IR, explaining how his chief executive won best IR by a CEO. ‘He’s very involved in IR and people respond to his direct, plain-speaking style. In tough times, that kind of approach really shines through.’

A clear, straightforward style of investor relations also helped TD Bank win best retail investor communications. Thompson, who says 25 percent to 30 percent of TD Bank’s shares are held by retail investors, confesses that when writing clear press releases and other materials, he sometimes imagines he’s writing to his mum.

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