Wednesday, 27 June 2012

How to IPO: advice for Cleantech companies

Event: London Stock Exchange Cleantech IPO Forum 2012

Date: Wednesday 20th June

Location: London Stock Exchange, London, UK

On this picturesque British Summer morning, the Abchurch Cleantech team made the short venture across the City to
Paternoster Square and the London Stock Exchange for the 2nd Annual Cleantech IPO Forum; a 'How to IPO' guide for cleantech companies considering floating on the Stock Exchange. Organised by Clean Energy Pipeline, we were pleased to be a sponsor alongside other IPO advisers Bird & Bird LLP, KPMG and Nomura Code Securities.

After arriving at the building and navigating through the rather intimidating revolving doors, we were greeted by the alluring aroma of coffee and breakfast pastries. As the clock struck 9, a great selection of Cleantech companies were ushered through to the auditorium where the conference commenced with a welcome note from Sam Rossiter, Product Manager of Capital Markets Events at the LSE. Kicking off the presentations was Axel Kalinowski, Business Development Manager of Primary Markets at the London Stock Exchange. He gave an insightful overview of the Main Market and AIM, the current IPO climate and the benefits of listing in London. Following Axel was Clean Energy Pipeline’s CEO, Douglas Lloyd. He spoke about the recent trends in the clean energy sector, highlighting that whilst 2012 may follow a similar dip in investment deals as in 2008/9, there is still a growing appetite for investing in the sector and it will continue to function as a major growth driver. The last speaker for session one was Ken Rumph, Director of Research at Nomura Code, who gave an eloquent presentation on what investors look for. Some of the key issues he raised included, first and foremost, that investors are looking to make money and that companies need to make their business case clear and concise; explaining why would people buy your product over competitors? A strategic approach would be to focus more on commercialisation and less on technology or green credentials - these can always be expanded later. Secondly, set out realistic milestones and plan ahead; make a checklist of things you are going to and have achieved. And finally, ensure you pick the right advisors; they need to understand the market, your underlying business model and have the chemistry to develop strong relationships. A Q&A session on public offerings concluded round one.

After a rejuvenating coffee and biscuit break, session two kicked off. First up was Connie Mixon from MyCelx giving a thorough case-study overview of the IPO process; from what to expect in life as a listed company on AIM. She similarly stressed the importance of your advisors, and in particular, how beneficial the Financial PR house was - comments which we greatly appreciated hearing! Bird & Bird LLP then navigated us through the legal issues of taking a company public. Matt Bonass and Vanessa Young addressed what to expect from the lawyers, the choices of market on which to launch and IPO preparation. Another Q&A session and coffee break and it was time for the final round. Gregory Hughes, director at KPMG, talked through the financial reporting pre and post-IPO. He highlighted the regulatory requirements necessary on the main market and AIM, the role of the reporting accountant, their work and deliverables. Key components included the construction of the Prospectus/Admission Document, the long form report (a core part of the financial and commercial due diligence for an IPO) and the ongoing requirements post IPO for both the company and accountant, e.g. financial reporting and interim management statements. Then it was Abchurch’s time to shine as our CEO, Julian Bosdet took to the stage. In a well-received presentation on how to IPO most succesfully, Julian informed the audience on how to communicate with investors and the media. He stressed the role of your financial PR advisor in helping to construct and roll out an effective, integrated communications strategy. The aim is to reach all target audiences through the press and analysts during an IPO – including all levels of investors, as well as employees, customers and industry partners.

The concluding presentation summarised a fund manager’s view with respect to investing in cleantech. Hyewon Kong from WHEB Asset Management explored the key themes and factors driving stock selection. There was a strong focus on sustainability; capturing new investment opportunities created by long term social, demographic and environmental challenges. They are not just looking for a product and how it brings benefit to the society and environment, but companies which provide real solutions to the challenges. These cleantech companies need to illustrate how they will maintain margins in an increasingly competitive landscape and have a focused strategy in terms of growth.

The resounding message of the conference on IPOs seemed to agree that while it is a volatile market at present and investment has seen a slight downturn as some fund managers concentrate on maintaining their current portfolio rather than investing in new companies, the cleantech theme remains a strong growth driver. In particular, investors like companies which are driven by regulation, as they may be somewhat insulated by the economic climate and public spending cuts. So, why IPO? Intial public offerings and life as a publically listed company offer enormous benefits; from increased access to capital to greater efficiency and corporate governance.

Overall, the conference was an excellent opportunity for companies to get a full grasp of how to IPO and what is involved in the IPO process, to identify the key players involved and what to expect when you decide to float on the Stock Exchange. For any ‘newbie’ into the industry, it acted as a constructive and worthwhile training morning, answering in great detail the popular "What is an IPO?" question. We heard the full IPO story directly from the industry experts and I would highly recommend attendance for future conferences. And, if your own personal development isn’t quite enough to tempt you, after the final closing remarks, you are served up with a delicious two course lunch and a chance to network and meet some of the experts.
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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The rise of the ‘mummy bloggers’

Myself and my colleague, Jamie, were entertained last week at the Gorkana Breakfast Briefing by Siobhan Freegard, founder of the parenting site Netmums. Although I had heard of the term ‘mummy blogger’, I, like many others, envisioned a yummy-mummy sitting at her desk with their shiny laptop; uploading endless images of their tiny tots, boasting about their babies latest gurgle and sharing the best cream for curing nappy rash.

This image could not have been further from the truth. The endless albums of virtually identical snaps are still appearing in their masses and the threads on ‘Which pushchair should I buy?’ and ‘Do I feed my children whole milk or semi-skimmed?’ do still dominate the pages. However, it became quickly apparent that this side of the ‘mummy bloggers’ is just a part of the story. More significantly, they are fast becoming a respected and influential power outlet.

Their forthright approach in expressing opinions has meant that they have become one of the most trusted and credible voices. The power of bloggers such as these to influence others has transformed the way companies implement marketing campaigns. The social media platform has been tapped into and companies and PR firms flock to this pram-pushing network to act as a lucrative advertising outlet. Their word of mouth alone can function more effectively than a standard ad. These bloggers are being presented with free products, services and holidays to trial, all for a few words on a webpage. I am jealous – maybe it’s time to pop out some sprogs and get typing?!

However, aside from the product-promoting, mums are good at starting a conversation; especially when it comes to discussing real issues. The issues of poverty, inequality, unemployment, housing, university fees are what they are really passionate about. They are the issues we can relate to, the ones which will affect childrens' futures and the future of society as a whole. When these ‘mummy bloggers’ and the mums (and dads!) involved in the online parenting forums, such as ‘Coffee House Chat’ - the sugar-coated name of the Netmums forum – get conversing, they are pooling their knowledge. Their collective voices are then harnessed and used to make a difference to policy and services. Campaigns are generated around libel law reform, rape awareness, miscarriage care and children tax credit cuts.  And people are listening.

An ongoing Mumsnet campaign ‘Let Girls Be Girls’ launched from ‘Mumsnetters’ concern that an increasingly sexualised culture was seeping into the lives of children. They actively campaigned to curb this problem by asking retailers not to sell products which emphasise or exploit children’s sexuality. In the last few weeks David Cameron announced his strong backing of this proposal. Despite him not yet committing to a legislation forcing retailers to take such action, it is a step in the right direction. This just highlights how powerful the ‘mummy blogging’ community can be in making small advances in shaping and initiating policy change and demonstrates how powerful outlets such as this can be in terms of public relations and public affairs.


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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Abchurch Life Sciences Party 2012

Life Sciences PRDate:
12th June 2012

The Abchurch Offices; 125 Old Broad Street

Attended by:
A selection of Abchurch’s Life Sciences clients, key journalists, influencers, investors and analysts in the sector

The Event:
With the Life Sciences sector buzzing with activity and the Abchurch team continuously growing, we enthusiastically flung open our doors for the second annual Life Science themed party. It presented an opportunity to bring the industry sector professionals together to mix, mingle and network with like-minded individuals.

With kick-off at 6pm, guests were greeted by the Abchurch team with a glass of sparkling (alcoholic or otherwise!) by a waiter donning Abchurch-branded purple scrubs. Guests migrated into the amazing open office space where the entertainment commenced. Once all had arrived and enjoyed an initial tipple, and a catch-up with the life science fraternity, attention moved to our two guest speakers.  

GE HealthcareDr Gaby SilverFirst on the agenda was Dr Gabrielle Silver; Global Head of Strategic Marketing, Neurology/ General Medicine at GE Healthcare. She gave a very insightful overview of the global burden of neurodegenerative diseases. Specifically, Gaby noted current attitudes towards dementia – which she believes are often driven by fear, especially with patients – as there is currently no known treatment. Fear and denial lead to poor knowledge levels, and specifically that late diagnosis of disease is, at this time, too late to prevent damage and progression. As such, Gaby concluded her talk by looking to the technology horizon, and highlighted the essential requirement for better diagnostics that can pick up the signs of disease as early as possible. Indeed, diagnostics of the future will detect patients vulnerable to dementia before symptoms have even been seen. Such diagnostics will give patients the greatest chance of protection, either through a change in life-style or the new therapeutics coming to fruition.  Indeed, Gaby noted that the next 6-12 months will be very exciting as results from several Phase III studies on drugs for Alzheimer’s will be published – the first drugs to treat the disease, rather than the symptoms.

Facebook IPOSecond to take to the mic was John Hodgson; Managing Editor of ScripIntelligence. John posed the question: “What lessons could Life Sciences learn from Facebook?” Regardless of Facebook’s valuation at IPO, and lacklustre performance in the aftermarket, John’s point was that there is clearly immense value held in data on people – so what would be the value of patient data and medical records?

Scrip IntelligenceJohn HodgsonHe described the current status quo where medical records are held as highly confidential, and only very few physicians may gain access to them. In the Facebook model, it is the owner of the profile that can divulge as much, or as little, as they choose about themselves, to post on the social media site. In healthcare however, patients do not have access to their own data, and are therefore not empowered to disseminate it as they see fit.

What is required, according to John, is a major change in mindset – not easy, he hastened to add. However, if patients owned their medical records, they could choose to make it available for anyone to use, to specific groups only, or completely secret; whatever works for them. But, like Facebook, you can be sure that significant volumes of data would move into the public domain. John noted that the value of this data is impossible to calculate, but it wouldn’t be used to steer advertising campaigns, but drive the development of the multi-billion dollar drug industry.   
Life Sciences PRThroughout this exclusive evening, the guest’s taste buds were tickled by a selection of, what I would class as, Michelin star quality canap├ęs. For the main course we were treated to seared chilli beef and nasu dengaku served in kidney dishes; duck, watermelon & cashew salad, tiger prawns with mango in a rice paper roll arranged around forceps, salmon tartar (my personal favourite) served around syringes, and betal leaf with pomelo & pomegranate for the veggies, scattered amongst Abchurch purple stethoscopes. Then, if this wasn’t enough to satisfy cravings or fill the stomach void, we had an equally impressive spread of delicious deserts. Keeping of course to the Life Science theme, the chocolate mousse with roasted hazelnuts and lychee jelly with mango DNA-style pearls served in petri dishes. To which I must add, the lychee jelly did look uncannily like an agar gel harbouring bacteria…but this realistic interpretation still failed to put me off eating more than my fair share! More mingling and medical deserts of a strawberry & coconut ‘syrup’ served on silver ‘dosing’ spoons, white chocolate ‘tablets’, and vanilla & strawberry ‘dentures’ scattered amongst dental tools, and the party started to draw to a close.
Life Sciences PR
Once again Abchurch’s organisational and hosting skills could not be faulted. The evening was a sterling success; with guests remaining extremely animated as they discussed the ins, outs and issues of the sector. Thank you to all who attended and contributed to the event and hopefully see you for the same again next year!

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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Five Minute Abchat - Cameron Blair

Cameron Blair, Director of Social Media and Digital at Wilkinson PR in Australia, and Regional Director Asia Pacific for IPREX takes some time to answer the Abchat questions from down under.


What did you want to be when you grew up?
A politician, but don’t tell anyone.

How did you get into PR and more specifically social media?
After travelling around the world and working as a press photographer in Asia, I moved back to Australia and started developing and designing websites. Not long after, social media for business became very popular, so I started including that in my services.

A year or so later, the recession hit and it wasn’t very kind. Shortly after I met Peter and Claire from Wilkinson Group and they hired me to work on IPREX.

The agency began to grow and we were retained to do more social/ digital media work, so that became a full-time role. So, I suppose, like many of us, I fell into this craft by accident.

Cameron Blair
Describe your role in ten words or less (if that’s possible!)
Oversee social media strategy and assist companies with everything digital.

If I wasn’t talking to you now, what would you be doing?
Sitting in a pub, thinking about why I never become a politician?

What is the most interesting thing about your work?
Being paid to use Facebook and Twitter all day? Well, that might be one cool aspect.

I think the most exciting thing about working in PR is the satisfying feeling of helping people overcome communication problems, developing strategies, convincing marketing directors that your ideas will benefit them, having your ideas shot to pieces, going to bed, waking up and doing it all again in the morning.

Is there a common misconception about PR?
Let’s put it this way. Success has many fathers, but failure only has PR consultants. That would be the biggest misconception.

What developments do you expect to see in the next twelve months?
I think we’ll see more Chinese businesses moving into overseas markets, which will create opportunities for PR agencies.

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Friday, 1 June 2012

Abchurch hosts IPREX 2012 Annual Meeting

After months of careful planning, Abchurch hosted IPREX’s Annual Meeting 2012 in London. Along with our co-hosts Brevia Consulting, we were delighted to welcome 44 of our international partners, from 19 countries, to London. Based in the Grange Hotel St Paul’s, we treated our lovely guests to a fun packed schedule. To start the event our international partners were invited to a reception at our awesome (as some of the guests descirbed it) offices so they could enjoy the spectacular panoramic view of London and initiate contact with their fellow guests. Brevia invited keynote speaker Steven Norris to draw on a long career as a successful politician and businessman, which certainly got the conversation flowing.

After a stroll over the iconic Millennium Bridge, we celebrated Shakespeare’s 400th birthday with dinner at the Globe Theatre, where each of his plays are currently being staged in a different language (that night they were performing The Two Gentlemen of Verona in Shona, a Bantu language, native to the Shona people in Zimbabwe).

The next morning, we took our partners by private boat from Limehouse Marina up the River Lea to the stunning Forman’s Fish Island conference venue, idyllically set directly across the river from the Olympic Stadium. On the way into the conference room we peered into Forman’s famous salmon smokery to see it in action.

Editor of Business Green, James Murray, kicked off the conference with a seriously insightful talk highlighting the need for investment in clean technologies and the opportunities and challenges in the sector. He also highlighted some unsung benefits of the clean technology sector (including huge job creation) and drew our attention to very innovative technology from Seawater Greenhouses.

A thought-provoking presentation by John McLean (who had treated guests to China Food Company’s tasty soy sauce in their goody bags) on Doing Business in China came next. His insight into cultural nuances and etiquette sparked lively discussion about growing business opportunities in the East.
Just before lunch we arranged for IPREX’s traditional Kodak moment to take place on the roof of Forman’s, with a full frontal view of the Olympic Stadium. Definitely one for the mantelpiece!

Lunch was a delicious buffet of the locally sourced sustainable salmon that we had seen smoking earlier; quite a treat.

The rest of the day was very entertaining, with an interactive session on Creativity and Innovation as Communication Power Tools and an opportunity to get to know our new Warsaw, Prague and Boston partners better. Kathy Tunheim also presented the new phase of the IPREX Strategy.

After the sunny boat journey back to the hotel, guests had a moments respite to freshen up before returning to the Southbank. This time our destination was the Tate Modern where we toured some of the stunning art on display and the adventurous among us took in the Hirst exhibit. We then enjoyed a superb dinner overlooking the Thames in the Tate Modern Cafe before heading out on the town …

The next morning, Brevia led the charge to Westminster to continue the conference, where IPREX’s regional report introduced plans to extend our network into Russia and Africa. Following the public affairs theme, Simon Thwaites of ComRes gave an interesting presentation on the power of polling as a business development tool in order to meet client challenges and requests.

Brevia then chaired a discussion alongside Cameron Blair, director of Social Media at Wilkinson PR, our Australian IPREX partner, about using social media to help businesses within the IPREX network as well as clients. This provoked considerable amount of discussion with the room full of members wanting to share their digital expertise.Tactics on how to improve a company’s SEO were discussed at great length as it was apparent all partners have the view that the digital world cannot be neglected. The idea of social media monitoring was also discussed extensively, going into the increasingly relevant debate over whether coverage on a journalist’s Twitter feed can now equate to a hit in the media. What was clear was that everyone shared the belief that digital media opportunities are something all IPREX partners need to embrace with open arms.

The final discussion was lead by our Netherlands IPREX partner Cas Jenster from ACA Communicate, talking about making the most of the IPREX partnership for new business opportunities. Our guests shared stories of working together and utilising the partnership to its fullest. An award was then given out to the partner who had provided the most new business over year to the network … and the winner was … Renzi Stone, of Saxum, with an amazing five successful new business opportunities for others.

After lunch, the conference finale was a tour of the Houses of Parliament. Our guests wandered through the current Upper and Lower houses as well as viewing Westminster Hall, built between 1097 and 1099 by William the Conquer’s son, King William Rufus the Redhead. This historic location has witnessed many a famous trial, such as the trail of Thomas More, and Charles I (our only Monarch to have been executed) on the steps of Whitehall, and of course the famous Gunpowder Plot.

The tour of one of the truly fantastic historic and current sites in world politics capped what was a highly successful and useful few days, where we treated our guests to some of the best of sport, politics, arts and literature that our City has to offer. And judging by all the lovely thank you messages we have received, our partners left the UK satisfied with their valuable meetings and time to network with their fellow members.

The London conference had such a great turnout and Abchurch would like to thank all partners who attended, and extend our special thanks to our new partners from Warsaw, Prague and Boston, who we all loved getting to know better.

Bring on the next IPREX meeting …….!

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