With the season of the annual results, listed companies are mount in the front line officers of commando: makers of relations with investors. "Investors Relations Officers" (IRO) to their English counterparts, they defend the flag of their society in the world financial jungle. Their function is strategic for the major French groups. Especially when financial instability undermines the composition of their capital and can be prey. But budgets or their position in the organization chart do not necessarily reflect the strategic importance of financial communications.
"The weeks preceding the publication of the results or the General Assembly is particularly intense," says Eliane Rouyer, investor relations of Accor managers. It must then analyze and assimilate recent accounts with the Financial Director of the group, which it depends. But it must also examine closely the evolution of all the branches of group, implanted in over 100 countries. It must monitor closely market, little steamy currently, and consider the major macroeconomic scenarios.
Then she must Polish the rationale with its President. "I am unreachable for some time", said Eliane Rouyer, which is not always easy while she presides over the Cliff, the professional association of his craft. The "road shows", meetings in series with the major investors in the capitals of the finance, also require her energy of Marathon. "Recently, in New York, I've chained eight appointments per day for three days in a row, with leaders of pension funds of hedge funds", she says. A head of investor relations does not so disproportionate means. In a society of the CAC 40, a team has on average six people, including Secretaries. Its average budget is$ 4.3 million euros, according to InvestorSight, a firm specialized in relations investors. But need to subtract 1 million to the Organization of the annual general meeting and another 1 million for the publication of the annual report. In comparison, the directions of the communication of the same companies drain budgets often superior to the ten million euros.
The trade becomes also more stressful. "Relations between investors and issuers are tightening," says Martine Hue, charge of investors relations of Publicis. "This is the backdrop to our daily work." In recent years, investors "activists" are disrupting the well-oiled machinery of annual general meetings. Last year, fourteen resolutions were rejected from the CAC 40 companies, three times more than in 2006, according to InvestorSight. These resolutions were on anti-OPA devices or on executive compensation. The IRO are therefore more corporate governance. Other stakeholders are also disturb sleep patterns of listed companies: the funds of the "private equity". They enter in their capital and invite to their Board of Directors, without having received cardboard in bristol. As Pardus in Valeo and Suez, Wendel in Saint-Gobain... In 2007, 75 of 203 corporations surveyed by InvestorSight have faced, as a predator or target, mergers and acquisitions transactions. In addition, 40 of the CAC 40 companies would be considered as potential of OPA hostile, according to the same report targets.
"The function investor relations is more exposed", says Bénédicte Hautefort, the President of the firm InvestorSight. "But it takes a truly strategic importance when the floating part of the capital of a company is high." Part of the capital, negotiated on the stock market, the "floating" is held by unidentified shareholders primarily interested in capital gains.
Some groups have implemented strategies to retain this shareholding. "Since its introduction on the stock exchange, in 1913, Air Liquide practice an active policy of individual shareholders", thus recalls Philippe de Saint Ours, the head of relations with the shareholders. The industrial gas group has a very high number of shareholders: 400,000 people capitalize 40 of its capital.
The small carrier is indeed blessed with a high dividend and generous allocations of free shares distribution. With constance, Air Liquide judge that the fidelity of its individual shareholders is the best weapon against the OPA. However, the investment fund Eurazeo exceeded last summer the threshold of 5 of the capital, thus becoming the largest shareholder.
Air Liquide remains an exception among the major French groups who prefer their relations with the "zinzins": large institutional investors. "Little French groups have defined a strategy of reconstruction of their ownership, which is regrettable", stresses nevertheless Jean-Yves light, associated specialized in financial communications at Euro-RSCG C & w coming to complete the second edition of a book on financial communications (), it is a signal of alarm: "directions are focused on their markets and their products, but they do not seek to organize their shareholding for the long term." When they do in the emergency, it is usually too late.
With the current financial crisis, the fall in stock market valuations undermines large corporations to dispersed capital. According to InvestorSight, 100 investor relations specialists are currently being sought. Their profile Senior, good Communicator (e), strong experience in the financial markets. Nerves of steel and high availability are required. They must be prepared to work day and night, of a financial predator attack.