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Jun 26, 2017

Iberdrola: Top-class IR from the start

Spanish utility named best small cap in 2003 and best large cap this year

They say good IR is about being consistent, and one firm that lives up to the mantra is Iberdrola, which regularly takes home prizes at the IR Magazine Awards – Europe.

But the Spanish utility can claim to be more consistent than most: back in 2003 it won best overall investor relations in the small-cap category. Last week, 14 years later and now a much larger company, it claimed the same award in the large-cap category.

Iberdrola two awards
Side by side: Iberdrola's awards for best overall IR from 2003 and 2017

Linking those two award wins is the career of Ignacio Cuenca. Iberdrola’s head of IR first joined the company in 1993 and moved into the investor relations department in 2001.

So what led to that award in 2003? Cuenca explains how a year and a half before, a new management team took over and set the ambitious target of doubling revenue through organic growth. ‘The big task was to convince the financial community that Iberdrola's 2002-2006 strategy would be delivered,’ he says. ‘And we did it.’

In addition, the company worked hard to market itself to investors as a ‘boring utility,’ says Cuenca; in those days, shortly after the Enron scandal, dullness was a virtue. The firm wanted to be viewed as ‘fully committed to its shareholders and with a strategy based on the core business, nothing exotic,’ Cuenca adds.

Over the following years, Iberdrola racked up a steady stream of IR awards, winning best IR by a CFO in 2005 and best CSR practice in 2008. In total, the firm has won more than 10 awards from IR Magazine and received dozens of nominations.

The Bilbao-based firm also crept up the Euro Top 100, a ranking produced by IR Magazine, moving from seventh in 2014 to third in 2015 and second last year. This year it advanced to the summit, taking the number one spot and also claiming three awards.

How has IR changed over the last 14 years? Cuenca highlights a number of trends: the emergence of new methods of communication, the increasing speed at which news is reported (forcing IR teams in turn to up their pace), and the growing demands for better transparency and corporate governance. 

Finally, he notes the globalization of Iberdrola’s shareholder base. That, alongside the delivery of his company’s strategy since 2002, has allowed the company to grow from its small-cap origins to a market cap of €45 bn ($51 bn) today.