When the going gets tough: IR Magazine Ireland Awards 2008

Jul 01, 2008
<p>The big winners and why the won, from this year's IR Magazine Ireland Awards</p>

The good times are over for IR in Ireland. After years of high growth and booming share prices, last summer the Irish market turned brutally. At this year’s IR Magazine Ireland Awards, companies were rewarded for facing the storm head-on instead of ducking difficult questions from investors and analysts.

As a result, the evening’s big winners came from two sectors at the forefront of Ireland’s rise and fall: construction and financial services. Property companies CRH and Grafton Group picked up four and three awards, respectively, while Anglo Irish Bank Corporation took home three gongs, including the prize for best overall investor relations by a large cap.

Bank on consistency
Winners were picked by respondents to IR magazine’s Investor Perception Study, Ireland 2008, an independent piece of research that asked members of the investment community to nominate and comment on the best performers in Irish IR during 2007 (see How we found the winners, below).

Almost two thirds of respondents were satisfied with the level of information Irish companies provide on their sector and individual performance, but some pointed to a significant decrease in disclosure in the second half of 2007, after the credit crunch had taken hold. ‘Commentary was variable, but only because the market took a fairly rapid fall from grace – things were fine in June and July,’ said one respondent based in Ireland. ‘After that, things quickly deteriorated in between reporting periods for most companies.’

Overall winner Anglo Irish was commended by respondents for bucking the trend. ‘It’s been a difficult time, but Anglo Irish has remained open to investors, staying out there and keeping up communications during the dark days,’ said one.

The bank’s openness ensured it also picked up the award for best investor meetings and roadshows. As one member of the investment community commented: ‘The unveiling of Anglo Irish’s final results was perfectly pitched to dispel any scurrilous myths and inspire confidence in the company’s future strategy.’

Cementing success
CRH saw its share price fall by around a third during the second half of 2007, but this didn’t stop the investment community acknowledging its IR efforts. Group controller Maeve Carton came to the stage four times to collect awards for best use of the internet for IR, best annual report and other corporate literature, best corporate governance and best IRO. Referring to the head of IR at CRH, Éimear O’Flynn, one respondent said she ‘instils confidence’ due to her solid understanding of the business.

Among small to medium-cap companies, another construction company, Grafton Group, picked up the grand prix for best overall investor relations, along with the awards for best IR by a CEO/CFO – for chief financial officer Colm O’Nuallain – and best investor meetings and roadshows.

Given the dominance of construction groups and banks, it was fitting that Bank of Ireland shared the spoils with CRH in the best IRO category. Head of group IR Geraldine Deighan and financial analyst Louise Hendrick were jointly recognized for their work at Bank of Ireland, along with CRH’s O’Flynn. Hendrick took the opportunity to thank the investment community for its support during what she termed ‘interesting times’.

For many, the highlight of the evening was the keynote speech by Deirdre Somers, chief executive of the Irish Stock Exchange. Somers likened initial public offerings to weddings, explaining how a company is the centre of attention for one day, but once that celebration has passed, the hard work starts and attention can be difficult to come by. It was an important lesson during tough markets, and the winners of this year’s awards know communication is needed more than ever when times are rough.

The big winners

Grand prix for best overall investor relations (large-cap companies)
Anglo Irish Bank Corporation

Grand prix for best overall investor relations (mid and small-cap companies)
Grafton Group

Best annual report and other corporate literature
CRH

Most progress in investor relations
IFG Group

Best IR by an IEX company
Cpl Resources

Best investor relations officer
Bank of Ireland – Geraldine Deighan & Louise Hendrick
CRH – Éimear O’Flynn

For a full list of winners, please visit www.irmagazineireland.com.

How we found the winners
Earlier this year, IR magazine commissioned an independent London-based firm, Mary Maude Research, to conduct telephone interviews with fund managers, buy-side analysts and sell-side analysts who cover Irish companies. Half of these were based in Ireland, and the rest in the UK, North America or continental Europe. Respondents were asked to nominate and comment on companies and individuals who had excelled in a number of different categories, including corporate governance, use of the internet and overall IR. The full results are published in IR magazine’s Investor Perception Study, Ireland 2008.

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