Unlocking the value of high-performance computing and blockchain: Northern Data’s new head of IR on rethinking the equity story

Mar 24, 2021
Jens-Philipp Briemle took up role at start of March

One of the most interesting challenges for IR is building out the equity story in an emerging sector. That’s the task faced by Jens-Philipp Briemle, who this month became head of IR at Frankfurt-listed Northern Data.

The company, which is traded over the counter, provides data centers for high-performance computing (HPC), in which computer power is aggregated to solve complex tasks.

In the US state of Texas, Northern Data is building one of the world’s largest data centers for HPC applications. The site, which is already operational, is mainly being used by clients for Bitcoin mining.

Northern Data also operates locations in Germany, the Netherlands, Canada and Scandinavia where it provides HPC services for other purposes such as artificial intelligence, big data analytics, blockchain and image rendering. The sites are mainly powered by renewable energy and currently undergoing a ‘rapid rollout’ of HPC clusters, says the company. 

Briemle describes himself as a ‘relative newcomer’ to the HPC space facing a steep learning curve, although he has previous experience in the software industry via a stint with SAP in New York. 

In addition, he has worked in areas where Northern Data offers HPC solutions. As head of IR at Gerresheimer and senior manager of IR at Schaeffler, he gained exposure to the automobile, industrial and healthcare sectors. And time at power company RWE built insight into sustainable energy supply.

Less than a month into the job, Briemle has so far focused on listening to investors’ feedback, getting to know the analyst community and building up his knowledge about the business, he tells IR Magazine. The current priorities are rethinking the equity story and establishing best-in-class IR services for the investor community, he says. 

A key objective is to distinguish between infrastructure companies – which can provide  global HPC solutions, such as Northern Data – and Bitcoin miners whose value is closely tied to the price of the cryptocurrency. 

‘We are clearly an infrastructure provider with the scale to pursue a strategy into HPC,’ says Briemle. ‘That was part of the value proposition of joining the company: being a visionary in the space, rather than just doing pure mining or being attached to that.’

The price of Bitcoin has surged over the last six months and this month hit a new high of more than $60,000. During that time, some companies in the bitcoin space have witnessed share-price rises of 2,000 percent. Northern Data, by contrast, climbed around 200 percent before a recent pull-back. 

The difference in performance highlights that Northern Data is not a pure-play mining company, but also indicates that there is a lot of ‘unlocked value because people don’t really get the story yet,’ says Briemle. ‘My job is to inform people about the tremendous opportunities that will derive from HPC and at the same time provide a feeling for the recurring revenues and profitability levels from hosting blue-chip mining customers.’

Another priority is expanding the range of analysts covering Northern Data. The current group is mixed, with some generalists and some technology experts. 

The company’s focus is to work with tech analysts to get the story out, improve knowledge of the sector and attract new investor pools, says Briemle. ‘HPC and blockchain solutions are relatively new and not well established from the brokerage side, with clearly more focus in the US, [but] the market is entering new territory.’

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