Thursday, 27 October 2011

Institutional Investors in AIM Breakfast 2011

On Thursday 20th October Julian, Jo, Quincy and Oliver attended the Institutional Investors in AIM 2011 breakfast, organised by Vitesse media.
Whilst the equity markets have continued to be incredibly volatile, the fact that Vitesse’s report revealed that institutional investors still have some £37.3 billion invested in AIM, up from £32.7 billion last year, should give all those involved within AIM some much needed confidence leading into next year.

With the continued malaise within the eurozone, it should not come as much of a surprise that institutions such as Blackrock and Henderson Global Investors are focusing their investments on emerging markets. Africa in particular, with its wealth of natural resources and minerals, has attracted a lot of investor interest, similarly, Asia and South America.

Following the presentation of the report, the breakfast provided all the attending advisers with an opportunity to network and it was great to see lots of familiar faces. The concluding remark of the report, that 54% of AIM is still owned by institutions, reiterated to all that even in tougher markets, there remains an active investor interest in growth companies with strong investment stories and quality management teams.

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Friday, 14 October 2011

LSE Chief advocates for SMEs

“There are 21.7 million people unemployed in Europe, and 23 million SMEs. If each SME were able to take on one more person…?This is why governments across Europe must look at all they can do to assist SME growth; these businesses are the essence of our future prosperity,” said Xavier Rolet, CEO of the London Stock Exchange last night at the AIM annual awards ceremony.
This year, the old Billingsgate Fish Market (built in 1874) hosted the event, which has arguably the best views of Tower Bridge in the city. Over 1,300 guests attended the dinner, comprising  AIM quoted companies, NOMADS, brokers, accountants, lawyers and public and investor relations firms, making it the largest AIM gathering in the City. Sponsors of the event ranged from Argus to Zeus. And the overall winner of evening, taking the Company of the Year Award was May Gurney.

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Monday, 3 October 2011

IPREX EMEA Fall Meeting, Stockholm

I have just returned from IPREX’s EMEA Fall Meeting in the beautiful city of Stockholm. Based on the topical theme of Digital PR and The New Web, the meeting provided thought provoking insights into future developments and ways of practice.

The opening evening provided an idyllic combination of great food, wine and engaging conversations, a trend that lasted throughout. Peter Ericsson, a former IPREX partner, gave a talk on the rise and fall of PR, a subject of great relevance in light of the current economic climate. He took the group back to past events that led to the unfortunate closing of his firm in one week. Peter advocated the need for internal crisis plans as a form of security.

Highlights included a talk by Jim Walsh of Walsh PR via Skype. Jim discussed how a small PR firm can tackle the challenge of managing digital and online programs for clients. His independent research revealed that agencies are split on their approach: half hire a ‘guru’ on either a full or part-time basis, while the rest upgrade current staff skills to meet new demands.

Nicolas Merigeau of New Cap shared details of how his firm handled recent challenges regarding digital PR and crisis communication, emphasising the importance of online interaction. Nicholas used the example of Air France’s neglecting of online comments from customers regarding the price rise on flights from France to

The full group in Mariatorget Square on Saturday afternoon

Beata Wickbom suggested that companies should see social media as an experiment, and that those who do are the most successful in the space. She believes that companies should focus on appealing to users’ emotions when operating in such a social environment.

A big thanks to Johan Wetterqvist of Spotlight PR and the EMEA team for hosting a highly beneficial event, with much to take away from.

It is well advocated that the communications landscape is becoming increasingly digitalised, as companies seek to offer multi-layered services. Every aspect of how we exchange information is feeling the impact of the technological revolution. Therefore, we as PR professionals must follow suit, and adapt to meet our client requirements.

With Facebook Inc., projected to float at US$100bn, it really does put the prominence of new media into context.

Henry Harrison-Topham, Managing Director

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Thursday, 8 September 2011

F-star – a shining example of biotech and drug discovery

The ingredients for a successful biotech company are actually much like any other early-stage business: a good product with customer interest, management skilled to commercialise the product, and the financial backing to make the project a reality. It’s the simple, TV Dragons Den formula.

The difference with biotech is in assessing the quality and robustness of the technology, finding suitably experienced management, and sourcing the weighty investment necessary to succeed---pharmaceutical companies still quote $500m per drug to market, although good biotech companies should slash these costs.

I’ve been tracking F-star ( since late 2009, just before it raised €8million in an extended series A, drawing in the venture wings of two pharmaceutical plays: MerckSerono and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma. Yesterday (September 7th 2011) the company announced that from the early investment from MerckSerono, a product development deal had evolved worth just shy of €500m. MerckSerono is providing three drug targets in inflammatory disease to which F-star is creating antibody drug candidates through its Modular Antibody technology.

Between these two events with MerckSerono, the company has also struck a deal with Boehringer Ingelheim worth up to up to €180m for each of seven targets, and closed an additional financing round of €15m, led by SR-one, GlaxoSmithKline’s venture wing. Other investors in the business include Novo Ventures, the venture arm of Danish pharma group Novo, and a purse of established life science venture capitalists.

These events have all fallen under the leadership of Kevin FitzGerald, who took to the CEO seat just seven months before closing the €8m financing in January 2010. Along the way the company has also managed to attract the likes of Sir Greg Winter, arguably the world’s leading academic on antibodies, to head the scientific advisory board.

So, a great product with significant pharma interest; a management team that is actively (and rapidly) progressing the company’s potential; and all healthily financed in a way few biotechs are in the current cycle. F-star is fulfilling a simple business formula. It’s now probably too hot for even the fieriest of Dragons, but are there deep-pocketed investors in life science that will recognise, buy into, and further progress the F-star proposition? I sense so.

Adam Michael

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Monday, 15 August 2011

Chinese IPOs come back into favour

Chinese companies have often been criticised for their turbulent relationship with UK investors. On AIM in particular they are often accused of not being transparent enough, and it is well documented that investors have had their fingers burnt by some high profile companies.

However, it seems that there is a flip side to this, and one that intuitive Chinese companies can capitalise on. Whilst the preconception is that these types of companies are prone to shying away from regular communication with investors, many fund managers still want exposure to the significant opportunities and vast markets that are present in China across a variety of sectors. There is a great opportunity, therefore, for companies that are prepared to be transparent and communicate openly to make a great success of their time on AIM.

Dongfang Shipbuilding, which joins AIM this week, is intending to leverage the market’s standing and corporate governance guidelines. By listing on AIM, Dongfang’s management intends to promote the Company as transparent and adhering to high levels of corporate governance, which will not only be reassuring to investors, but also help the Company to stand out amongst its peers in the Chinese shipbuilding industry. The Board believes that the European ship owners in particular will feel that the Company’s listed status in London will make it stand out in a crowded market and give a level of reassurance that isn’t possible as a private company.

With AIM listed companies such as China Food Company and Sorbic International putting considerable emphasis on transparency and behaving like Western-run companies but with the direct exposure to the growth in Asian markets, investors may finally be prepared to consider Chinese companies again as a good opportunity. Dongfang’s IPO this week reiterates that there is investor demand for Chinese companies that are well run and willing to play by the rules; and, in turn, they will be rewarded with their new found status as a listed company and the support of UK shareholders.

Henry Harrison-Topham

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Friday, 12 August 2011

Book Review: 'Priceless' by William Poundstone

Intern at Centaur Media plc reviews 'Priceless' by William Poundstone for Mortgage Strategy
Economic principles will tell you that products are priced on the level of supply and demand as well as the cost of production.

It’s true that good businesses will always ensure they make more than they spend but that’s not all.

William Poundstone’s Priceless seeks to explain the dark art of selling and how to increase the selling price by psychological tricks. It provides insight into the underhand techniques that used-car salesmen and market dealers have been using for years.

These Jedi mind techniques will come in handy for mortgage brokers after one large firm recently revealed it has a 100% target for protection sales.

Cross-selling protection is crucial now and Priceless offers guidance to help you sell more and earn more. One technique is explained through a simple behavioural trick renowned in economics circles.

The book poses two questions. First, is the number of African countries in the United Nations higher or lower than 65?

Second, is the number of African countries in the United Nations higher or lower than 10?
The average guess of those asked the first question was 45 whereas the average answer to the second question was 25.

The reason the second answer is almost half the first is that the number in the question is used as a reference point. The technique is called anchoring and is often used in sales.
Poundstone cites the example of a canny Broadway producer pricing tickets.

“Cheap seats don’t sell, wanna know why?” he says. “If you price orchestra level or mezzanine seats cheap, people think there is something wrong with them.”

Brokers can use this technique effectively. If they set fees too low clients will consider them worthless so the Stella Artois catchphrase ’Reassuringly expensive’ is one brokers could adopt.

Anchoring can also be used to influence clients. For instance, would you like to pay more or less than £1,000 for your broker fees? Some people will ignore the anchor and think logically but most will be swayed to a higher or lower assumption than they originally thought.

There are other fascinating pricing strategies in the form of bundling of products. For example, when selling a blender it would be acceptable to tell the customer they are buying a blender and that’s all. But Poundstone highlights a salesman who marketed his product as a glass canister, blades, holding pod, electric wire and rotation tools.

Despite being identical, the second description gives the impression that buyers get more bang for their buck. The blender salesman charged more but went on to outsell his competitors.

It is worth remembering that when charging fees brokers should talk themselves up and highlight all aspects of their service. That could include offering quality advice, getting the best mortgage deals, a guide for buying a house and a hassle-free experience.

Poundstone also explains the theory behind techniques such as that used on the popular quiz show, Goldenballs. In the final section where contestants can share or steal a pot of money, Poundstone explains why some choose to steal while others share.

Priceless explains that pricing is never fixed and everything is negotiable. The examples are interesting and there is much to take away from this useful read.

Review by Stuart Hosie

This book discusses the art of what makes for good negotiating and price determination. By examining a series of sales and marketing techniques the book highlights principles which apply to the psyche of the consumer.

A very interesting book review; and recommended for any broker, or any professional who negotiates and interacts with people on a daily basis to have a read.

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Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Apple is world’s most valuable firm

- Steve Jobs is the man-

Recent uncertainty in the stock market yesterday helped Apple to overtake Exxon Mobil to become the world’s most valuable company. However, the innovative work of Steve Jobs should not go unnoticed.

Apple briefly pipped Exxon on 9 August 2011 when the Company’s share price dipped due to a fall in the price of crude oil; a direct result of the market’s concern over The United States’s debt crisis and the increasing threat of a double dip. The USA is the world’s biggest consumer of crude oil and as a result, Exxon Mobil’s share price has seen a 20pc drop since reaching a year high of $87.98 in April 2011. On the other hand, Apple is a blossoming evergreen, with the Company’s share price having almost quadrupled in the last four years. 

City workers, journalists and consumers are questioning how Apple is managing to expand at a time when other companies and even sovereign states are struggling to stay afloat. Could the simple answer be the work and vision of Apple CEO, Steve Jobs…?

The California based tech company is enjoying rapid expansion, with every results announcement continuing to boast record growth upon record growth. Furthermore, analysts do not expect this growth curve to plateau, as most still hold buy recommendations on Apple, despite the prospect of the deepening slowdown in the world economy. In fact the only time Apple’s share price did begin to level-out was in January 2011, when reports in the press stated Jobs had been taken ill again; arguably a marked testament to the markets’ faith in their CEO.

The argument that technology will continue to develop and demand will never dwindle is true, but Apple has to be acknowledged for its innovative products – the recognition of which should go to Steve Jobs. When Jobs was reinstated at Apple in 1997, he inherited a company worth $2billion. Apple was trailing behind Dell and the world of electronics was wholly dominated by Microsoft. Today the company is worth $341.5bn.

As the Internet became more widely accessible, Job’s first priority was to rebrand Apple. The company reacted and introduced the pretty coloured iMac computers. Over the years, this evolution has continued, with the iMac leading to the iPod, then to the iPhone and most recently, to the iPad. In just 14 years Steve Jobs has changed consumer computing, the entire music industry, mobile communications and brought tablet devices to the market (a concept one might have thought belonged in an H G Wells novel not too long ago).

The upcoming autumn launch of iCloud is yet another example of the company and Steve Jobs’s innovation. Jobs spotted that the proliferation of hand held wireless devices has led to businessmen and consumers being ‘online’ all the time, and as a result, there is increased demand to access and backup data through cloud based services. iCloud will actually overservice these consumer needs; further differentiating Apple from competitors such as Microsoft and Dell, and in turn, increasingly encroaching upon Google’s territory.

As Dominc Rushe in the Guardian comments: “One of Jobs’s early goals was to surpass Dell”. Apple have done just that. In 2006 their market capitalisation was $72.13bn vs Dell’s $71.97, and by May 2010 Apple’s market cap was $3bn greater than Microsoft’s.  Now the technology giant’s market cap is rivalling oil companies. [1]

The soon to be launched iCloud service and the eagerly anticipated iPhone 5 will continue Apple’s dominance of consumer electronics under Jobs, with stores worldwide having flocks of dedicated followers queuing up overnight eager to get their hands on the latest Apple product.

When Steve Jobs decides to retire, the board at Apple has some task on their hands to replace him. It will not be easy.

Jamie Hooper

[1] Pg 24 Guardian 10 August 2011

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Monday, 1 August 2011

AIM joins in on Global IPO fever

A recent piece of research commissioned by Ernst & Young has offered all those associated with the financial markets reason to feel optimistic heading into the second half of the year. The report notes that Global IPO fundraising activity has risen by 38% in the second quarter of 2011, compared with the same period last year. Focusing on Europe in particular, the report comments that IPO fundraisers in the second quarter amassed to a huge 534% increase in capital raised, compared to the dealings from the first quarter of the year. Of particular note was the fact that dealings conducted on the London Stock Exchange were themselves responsible for US$12.6bn of the US$17.7bn raised within Europe’s stock markets. Whilst the blockbuster IPO fund-raiser of the Swiss commodities trader, Glencore, no doubt heavily contributed to this buoyant up-turn in capital-raising, further market sentiment would suggest that the London Stock Exchange is enjoying a very active period. In turn, the increase in Global IPO activity has also been heavily mirrored on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market. The number of companies joining AIM has more than doubled to 16 in the second quarter of 2011, up from just seven in the first quarter. Furthermore, AIM has already completed 19 IPOs this year, with June in particular having been an especially strong month; the IPOs in June managed to raise £169.5m which was the highest amount raised on the market for six months. Market reporters suggest that the current trend of IPOs on AIM is set to continue throughout the second half of the year. Abchurch is certainly seeing an increase in activity and the team are working on a number of floats at the moment, one of which, Spectra Systems, a US specialist in advanced technology for banknote authentication floated on AIM in late July. Early indications suggest that Spectra Systems has continued the current IPO fund-raising trend on AIM by managing to raise £15m; a strong advance on the £5m initially hoped for. Furthermore, Spectra enjoyed a happy first day of dealings with the share price up to 78.5p having floated at 75.3p. .

Olly B

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Monday, 11 July 2011

Future Faces – Bring on the summer

Future Faces on a Friday – now that is a great way to celebrate the end of another productive week in the City. The sun even poked its head out around midday, making the spectacular views from the office even more dazzling and setting the mood for the afternoon.

After the success of our last Future Faces party, The Robbie Boyd Band was back, entertaining guests with their Funky Folk sound and setting a really relaxed and informal tone to the afternoon. The party saw a mixture of the City’s up and coming analysts, brokers, and fund managers, mingling over canapés, while sipping Corona and chilled wine. For the more sensible and restrained of us there was a choice of summery, organic sparkling juices.

The turnout was great and the market banter gave all of us reason to think (and hope!) that maybe there are a few more deals out there, a pleasant change from most Julys when things in the City are starting to wind down for the summer. Quincy was MIA for this event, helping his family move house in Nigeria. His loud personality (and even louder voice) was missed but it was exciting to meet a lot of new faces who had not attended one of our events before and in return they got to meet the newest Abchaps, Jamie and myself. All in all it was a fantastic opportunity to get to know lots of new names and companies.

As Abchurch’s most recent graduate recruit, I was thoroughly impressed with the afternoon; as a newcomer to the City – it was a great way to get a better understanding of how things work and where everyone fits, in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.

Olly B

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Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Life Sciences Party

29th June 2011

The Abchurch Offices; 125 Old Broad Street

Attended by:
A selection of the life science City Financiers in London, a selection of the VC community and a contingent of the life science media, together with a number of young and exciting companies.

The Event:
With the Abchurch Life Sciences Team growing from strength to strength it only seemed appropriate to open our doors to the Life Science community for an evening of champagne and canapés, and give the newest member of our team, Jamie Hooper, the opportunity to meet and mingle with others in the industry.

In our series of themed events, this was our first Life Science party and it must go down as another great Abchurch success. We had a fantastic turnout of guests, all with a keen interest in the sector, either as analysts, journalists, corporate financiers or company Board members. We were delighted to have Nigel Brooksby, former Chairman of Sanofi-Aventis and current Chairman of the UK Life Sciences Council, give a short talk to kick start the evening, giving guests plenty of food for thought. One interesting, though controversial, point Nigel raised was that biotech “thinks pharma is slow and bureaucratic”, while Pharma “thinks they already know everything”. Quite how this will be addressed as Pharma and biotech need to work more closely in the future is still to find out. He was certainly opinionated – as an experienced industry specialist should be – and a great champion of UK biotech.

Abchurch’s Creative team rose to the occasion and the inspirational ideas really added that touch of genius to the evening. With waiters wearing purple Abchurch branded scrubs and a menu including gazpacho served in brightly coloured test tubes, seared beef in kidney trays, health and science was most definitely the theme. My personal favourite, the crème de la crème of the evening was a selection of jellies served for desert imaginatively presented in Petri dishes. With raspberry & rose, elderflower & gooseberry and lime & lemongrass flavours, exactly what they were supposed to look like, we won’t mention here – suffice to say they were realistic!

Many commented that it was refreshingly different to other events they had attended and it made for a thoroughly enjoyable and useful networking evening. I am looking forward to what creative surprises we can expect with a Green Gathering on the cards for October. The bar has certainly been raised.


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Monday, 6 June 2011

Five-minute Abchat: Rebecca Murch, Abchurch

Our newest Intern is ex-businesswoman Rebecca (Becky) Murch, currently studying PR at Westminster University. We asked her why she made the move from sandwich shop owner to PR guru (in the making).

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an actress; I had the best dressing up box of all my friends. I use to put on little skits and plays for my family and then in my last year at primary school I put together a musical version of Cinderella with my best friend. All the songs were nursery rhymes but we changed the words. My parents still have a VHS recording of it, which they occasionally like to embarrass me with, at the time I thought it was worthy of an Oscar!

Why did you decide to get into PR?
I love communication and business and therefore it seemed to be a great direction to go in. I find it fascinating, particularly the challenge of liaising between an organisation and its different audiences.

Describe your course in ten words or less (if that’s possible!):
The first few words that pop to my mind are: Eye opening, stimulating, challenging, sometimes frustrating, but most definitely interesting.

If I wasn’t talking to you now, what would you be doing?
Trying to absorb as much information as possible, there is so much going on in the office and I am trying to get to grips with all the different clients and who is working on what. This is a different sector to any that I have worked in before so there is a lot to take in.

What is the most interesting thing about your course?
I would have to say the people that we get to meet. Westminster University have great contacts within the media industry who host seminars and lectures on campus. Their insight and experience is invaluable and really enhances the learning experience and if you are cheeky and take advantage they are great for getting top tips and creating contacts.

Do you think there is a common misconception about PR?
Yes, I do not think it is taken seriously enough. In my personal opinion Public Relations is an invaluable tool to businesses and a key component to the marketing mix but often it does not receive the recognition that it deserves.

How has the industry changed over the last couple of years?
I can only go on what I have learnt so far in my degree, I think the main change has been the development within the digital world and the 24/7 media environment that we now live in. I think that this brings with it new challenges as well as many new exciting opportunities and I think this will continue in the coming years.

What developments do you expect to see in the next twelve months?
I think there will be more and more developments within digital PRas media consumption habits are changing. This is a hot topic at the moment on my degree and every visiting practitioner spends time talking about the importance of including digital elements to campaigns and the importance of having an online presence. It has been fascinating to look at how the media landscape has changed in recent years and I think it will become more important in order to reach key audiences.

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Friday, 15 April 2011

Future Faces - Easter Bunnies

The first Future Faces of 2011 was also my first introduction to an Abchurch event, which had an impressive turnout of over 100 guests, specifically 100 of the City’s future faces. Many junior analysts, brokers and fund managers joined us, along with a healthy spattering of journalists!

Feedback on the day indicated it was another resounding success, with conversation and laughter flowing well into the afternoon.

What made this particular event unique was the addition of live music, supplied by The Robbie Boyd Band, an eclectic mix of talented musicians with a uniquely “Funky Folk” sound. It set the fun and informal atmosphere in the room as guests were treated to delicious canapés, Champagne, Corona and a range of organic sparkling juices.

Being my first event of this nature it was slightly daunting meeting so many new faces from different industries but you suddenly realise that there are others in the same position, with the biggest turn out to date and lots of new faces everyone was in the same position. Personally I met some really interesting people and had some fascinating conversations and it was particularly inspiring to hear so many compliments about the Abchurch Team and how much people have enjoyed previous events organised by them.

As an intern this is really exciting to hear and I must say the event was really impressive, not only in turnout but in the attention to detail that could be seen throughout. From the colour co-ordination of the bright purple Easter eggs, to the waiters always on hand to top up your glass and a menu that was topped off with sorbet and miniature Lindt Chocolate bunnies, the choice of catering, music and company were a great combination and it certainly exceeded my expectations. Gladly the length of my internship means I will be attending the next one of these awesome quarterly events!…..


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Friday, 1 April 2011

Out and about in March

The end of March has brought with it an exciting diary of events and networking for the Abchurch Team. This week started with Mark heading down for a day at The Cheltenham Gold Cup, as a guest of finnCap. A great day promised with the weather clear and bright although ultimately there were more losers than winners as the group headed back to London that evening. As well as keeping up with a number of contacts in corporate finance and broking, Mark was introduced to the finnCap sales team and their respective clients.

This was followed by the Merchant Securities Spring Party on the evening of 24th March, attended by Julian. It was held at Paternoster Chophouse, located by St Paul’s Cathedral. Paternoster specialises in traditional British cuisine and the menu for the evening was aptly named ‘A taste of Britain.’ The turnout was fantastic and included brokers, analysts and other City advisers. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening filled with good company, fine wine and delicious food, a big Thank you to Merchant Securities for inviting us along.

At the same time as the Merchant Securities Spring Party, four of the Abchaps headed to the Nabarro Corporate Associate Drinks at Beduin Bar in Central London for an informal and relaxed evening with the Nabarro team. It was a chance to meet some new faces and network with a range of financial advisers based in the City over a much deserved glass of wine.

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Friday, 25 March 2011

LSE Aim Conference 2011

Mark Hoban MP and Marcus Stuttard, Head of AIM
The annual AIM conference, held at The London Stock Exchange, was an excellent opportunity for AIM-quoted companies to stay up to date on the latest developments and trends affecting the market, and to network with peers and key industry figures

This year Abchurch sponsored the event alongside PricewaterhouseCoopers, BlackRock and Religare Capital Markets and met a wide selection of AIM-quoted companies along with investors and members of the small cap community.

Raymond Greaves (Head of Research, Religare) kicked off his presentation by saying: “AIM is an excellent place to be as a growth company but…you must have a good story to tell and execute well and…you need good advisors.”

Our CEO Julian Bosdet guided the CEO and Finance Director delegates through Building Relationships To Attract Investors. The importance of a cohesive approach covering retails investors, Private Client Investment Managers (PCIMs) and institutional investors was picked up well by the audience. With institutions unlikely to take a position through buying from retail investors, PCIMs are a very effective way of packaging up shares currently in retail hands to sell on to larger buyers.

The conference kicked off with a welcome from David Snell, Partner at PwC, who also presented later in the day on ‘Securing AIM’s Future’. The welcome was followed by an introduction delivered by Xavier Rolet, the Chief Executive of the London Stock Exchange.

A keynote address delivered by Mark Hoban MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, praised the role AIM plays in supporting growing businesses and the UK economy. He said:

“Small and medium sized business enterprises play a vital role in our economy, providing both jobs and services throughout the UK and beyond. As a government, we are committed to supporting SME’s and have launched a range of initiatives including reform of EIS and VCT, funding for new Enterprise Zones and improving access to credit facilities for smaller companies. These and other projects are all designed to drive growth and innovation which will fuel the continued recovery of the UK economy.”

The afternoon session started with an AIM case study from Matthew Walls CEO of Epistem. This was a success story of AIM from the outset, with significant interest post-float, well-subscribed primary and secondary fund-raisings, and strong growth in share price despite the recent economic turmoil. Next to the stage was Madeleine Cordes of Capita Registrars discussing Corporate Governance for AIM Companies.

The day’s events were wrapped up with the final presentation provided by Ralph Cox, MD of the fund-manager BlackRock, where he went through the dos and don’ts when approaching fund managers; what he likes to see, and what will make him say “no thanks”.

These LSE events are always very educational and insightful for the audiences and it was brilliant to see a great turnout from AIM companies……we look forward to the next one!


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Thursday, 24 March 2011

King Pin 2011

The Abchurch Team joined forces last night to take part in King Pin 2011, the 10 Pin Bowling tournament, organised by Roger Gregory of global full-service lawyers Dorsey &Whitney LLP. A total of six teams from a wide range of business backgrounds gathered together to take on the challenge and compete for the title of King Pin 2011.

The Abchurch team comprised of Julian, Mark, Tania, Claire, Oliver, Joanne, Simone, and Adam and a sterling effort was made by all. New Abchap Adam was by far the star of the Abchurch team with smooth moves on the bowling alley but it was most definitely a team effort. Within some fantastic moments of true sporting talent and the bad bowling displays providing classic entertainment for everyone involved.
The highlight of the evening was Team Abchurch finishing in the top three, although perhaps the greatest disappointment was that we lost out on second place (and therefore being entered into the final Champion’s play off) by just a single point!

The King Pin 2011 title was awarded to a team fielded by Evolution Securities who definitely deserved their title!

A huge thank you to Roger Gregory and to Dorsey and Whitney for organising the event and for inviting us along to take part. We’re looking forward to returning the favour and seeing some of the team at our next Future Faces party!

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Saturday, 12 March 2011

PLC Awards 2011

It’s that time of year again with the much anticipated PLC Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel, and the 2011 Awards Dinner certainly lived up to expectations. Defined as “the” City event of the year it was attended by quoted companies, investment banks, fund managers, analysts and corporate advisors and Abchurch were there in the thick of it.

We hosted a table and our guests included our client Proventec, Analysts and Brokers from Brewin Dolphin, FinnCap, Collins Stewart and Seymour Pierce, law firm Pinsent Masons, BBC News Online and accountants Grant Thornton. The mix of guests and personalities meant the conversation was animated and interesting and went on until late into the evening.

The event was hosted by BBC TV presenter Kate Silverton who presented the awards, and was followed by Ronnie Corbett who provided much amusement! Many congratulations to all the winners on the night, who included The Rank Group plc, Volex Group plc (twice!), Mike Prentis, BlackRock, D S Smith plc, Renishaw plc, SuperGroup plc, Richard Harpin of Homeserve plc, and Domino Printing Sciences plc.

Thank you to all involved in organising another extremely successful and thoroughly enjoyable event; the 25th anniversary of the PLC Awards was certainly one to remember, and we are already looking forward to next year.


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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A view on: Life Sciences

We are about to welcome a new Abchap into the fold. He is a Life Science specialist and will be joining Abchurch as a Director. So why are we strengthening our Life Sciences team when the sector has struggled for so long? His viewpoint is that Life sciences is coming out of hibernation; “the London and European markets have seen an increase in life sciences financings over recent months and there is also strong and deep venture financing available for the correct companies.” It is certainly true that there has been an increase in interesting medical device companies and small biotechs coming through our doors. The gap that big Pharma is creating by dismantling non-essential internal R&D capabilities is ready to be filled by innovative, nimble companies with unique and interesting products. These are the types of companies that we like to work with.

According to a report in today's Times, the UK has a thriving life sciences industry, with four out of the top six universities in the sector in the UK. 10% of global pharmaceutical spend is in Britain and our academics are second only to the US in publishing research in the field. While we are one of the smallest nations in the EU, two fifths of European biotechs are based here. This success, Ian King notes, is down to close collaboration between industry, academia, the health service and the Government. There is a nod to the City, which has provided finance for industry and encouraged academia to understand the value in its IP and commercialise it. In the past ten years alone, more than 200 companies have been successfully spun out of bioscience departments in the UK, generating revenues of over a billion pounds.

Recently a journalist asked one of our clients – a spin out itself – “why wouldn’t a Pharma company just buy you? It would be cheaper for them in the long run than licensing your products.” And our client replied quite simply that they would be swallowed up; the innovation, the ability to quickly pursue interesting projects, the speed at which R&D can take place in a small, focussed company, would simply be lost and the big companies recognise this. It’s a view that more than one client has expressed and makes it increasingly attractive for the giants to partner with smaller companies to take advantage of their agility. It’s attractive to the small companies too, giving them sales clout and the financial ability to continue to develop their products and technologies, both of which can be extremely costly.
With so much promise, it seems to me a little unfair that Life Sciences has had such a hard time in recent years. Healthcare is – technically – a defensive industry and with advances in the field – from drug discovery and development, to devices and analytical technology – moving as fast as they are, it seems that good communications in the sector are just what the doctor ordered.


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Friday, 25 February 2011

Rosenblatt’s New Energy Awards 2011

On the 24th February, Abchurch hosted a table at the New Energy Awards 2011 where Acta, an Abchurch client was nominated for the ‘Company of the Year’ award.

These days, the awards are THE place to be seen for the great and the good of the cleantech world with well over 700 people attending. About four years ago, they were held in a hotel with approximately 300 people. The ceremony is now held in the Natural History Museum, with tables based around the iconic skeleton of the Diplodocus.

However, the highlight of the evening was a talk by Henry Worsley who led the Matrix Shackleton Centenary Expedition to the South Pole last year. The images of the Southern Polar cap and changing landscapes bought home the important role the cleantech sector has in preserving places such as this. Henry showed fascinating pictures of the Shackleton expedition 100 years ago which included taking a car as well as horses along for the ride! The horses did prove useful of course, but the car did not last very long in sub zero degrees.

Unfortunately Acta did not win but there is always next year when I am sure the awards would have grown even larger, reflecting the increasing size and spread of the cleantech sector. The winners also gave a hint as to which technologies to keep an eye on over the coming year and they ranged from wave power to smart meters. The latter is a sure reality for everyone because the Government aims to have every home in the UK equipped with one by 2020.

For more information on the winners, please click on this link:


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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

IPREX: Global Leaders Conference – Miami

Last month, Quincy and I traded London’s cold January drizzle for the glorious sunshine of Miami, which was rather fortunately the location of this year’s annual IPREX Global Leadership Conference.

IPREX is one of the world’s largest public relations networks with 68 partnering agencies, spanning across 30 countries and 90 offices. This year’s conference “PR 20:20—Envisioning and becoming agencies of the future,” gave us a great chance to meet our fellow American and Canadian IPREX partners to discuss together the issues affecting our practices and how we can work more closely together to confront these going forward. Specifically, one of the main issues we looked at was how the changing role of technology and new digital innovations affect PR professionals and how best to capitalise effectively on emerging online trends in social media.

As communications specialists working in an increasingly digitalised environment, evolving business models is critical. It is clear we need to incorporate and efficiently manage the rapidly changing channels of information and methods of building relationships. The conference therefore opened up some insightful discussions on how best to address these shifting dynamics by optimising our use of online multimedia platforms to deliver strong results for our clients and agencies themselves.

An interesting session, from a design perspective, was led by guest speaker Dave Bricker, the creative specialist and lecturer from Miami International University of Art and Design. Bricker gave us some extremely useful advice and illustrations on how to get the best from website design, where he believed “preparing to let your inhibitions down” was key in order to “think, feel and promote.” This session also led us to explore how, as partners of IPREX, we could best leverage the organisation to develop and extend relationships and those vital communication structures.

Listening to the comments of my peers made me see how the IPREX alliance is hugely important for its 68 independent member agencies because it gives us the flexibility to reach national and international markets, from small projects to major global programmes. Kathy Tunheim, the Worldwide President of IPREX summarises it well in her recent article “Connective Tissue for a ‘Glocal’ World”- with today’s more ‘glocal’ world, it’s important to balance the needs for both global and local perspectives. So in this sense IPREX acts as a powerful resource for helping partners to adapt and evolve elements of their communications strategy to meet changing industry demands where they can receive guidance on tactics, key audiences, delivery channels and the different cultures of new markets.

The sessions gave us plenty of food for thought as we brainstormed new ideas on how to build our organisations and keep abreast (or at least try!) of new digital applications. The forum meant we could listen to other professionals about their direct experiences and understand how they dealt with common sector issues as they explained the processes behind their accomplishments or what they learnt from past difficulties they faced. Also, since there was a selection of both financial and consumer-focused PRs there was a diverse range of approaches that different partners used to confront certain issues.

Of course, aside from our productive efforts during the daytime, we were also given a colourful flavour of Miami’s local cuisine by our kind and very informative host, David Stiefel, President of Great Communicators, who took us on a great tour of Coral Gables each evening.

It seems an age away now as I cast back to those few days in sunny Miami, enjoying the warm weather and munching on key lime pie! But overall I’d say it has left me with a far greater understanding of how important the strong connections of our IPREX network are for us here at Abchurch, not only in terms of the application of communication amongst international partners, but also quite simply, the event was a well-organised and structured chance to properly engage with other successful individuals, who more than certainly represent some of our future global PR leaders in the making!

A huge thank you to all those involved in organising such a worthwhile event.


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