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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