Many Silicon Valley companies lack a ‘share price strategy,’ survey reveals

RoseRyan and Assay Investor Perspectives just released their Share Price Survey Results after meeting individually with more than 20 senior finance leaders and directors and surveying others online. We intended to gain an understanding of what private and public companies are doing to actively manage their valuation and share price over time.

It turns out they are making some efforts but lack the expertise and long-term strategy to pull it off well. After the clever pre-IPO road show presentations and after all the investment bankers have gone home, there’s little thought put into creating a comprehensive “share price strategy.”

It’s a hot topic. Share price and valuation always get attention whenever RoseRyan provides thought leadership papers or events on this topic. That’s not so surprising since we are in Silicon Valley after all, surrounded by all the hoopla that accompanies the latest IPO, merger or acquisition – and all the valuations that go along with them.

The excitement is even greater these days as we are in the midst of a busy IPO market. In 2013, FireEye, Portola Pharmaceuticals, Twitter, Rocket Fuel, Veracyte, Marketo and others kicked it off. And the trend is continuing, with anticipation that Box, KineMed, Dropbox, Asterias Biotherapeutics, Square, Spotify, Airbnb and others will soon file as well.

It is amazing how much effort goes into preparing for an IPO. What comes next involves hard work as well. Companies that let the inevitable “post-IPO hangover” take too much of an effect miss out on critical opportunities. Those hot-shot companies will need to take their singular focus off getting to the IPO bell and spend a little time considering how they will maintain their share price and valuation. But most likely they will not. Too often, newly public companies don’t come up with a strategy for how they are going to not only maintain their lofty valuation but also increase it over time.

What to Do Next
Executives usually have two choices to increase their valuation – grow their income or increase their multiple. What the survey results and our discussions show is that companies really don’t understand what the buy-side analysts are looking for. The buy-side analysts’ focus is usually on the multiple and the levers that will move the multiple directly. Most companies focus on increasing net income, which is what most buy-side analysts don’t focus on.

Why is there such a big disconnect? It is centered on the nature of the people doing the work. Most investor relations representatives have either a communications or a sell-side background, and most buy-side analysts have advanced degrees or PhDs in mathematics. And most company executives have MBAs. These different backgrounds can lead to a mismatch in the way these groups speak to each other and understand each other. Basically, they are speaking different languages.

The results of our executive conversations show that this disconnect is causing issues in long-term valuations. Companies’ lack of a solid understanding of buy-side analysts and what really drives share price can expose them to undervaluation. A depressed (from where it should be) valuation impacts recruiting, brand, motivation and culture.

Senior leaders can reverse this trend by deploying strategies that really drive the multiple and having a focused strategy on communicating those strategies to analysts. This does not preclude companies’ need for focusing on increasing income; it just means if they want to supercharge their valuation, they need to have clear strategies that increase their multiple. Read our report, Share Price Survey Results 2013, for the details.

Chris Vane is a director at RoseRyan, where he leads the development of the finance and accounting firm’s cleantech and high tech practices. He is open to discussing ways to positively impact your company’s share price/valuation. Contact Chris at cvane@roseryan.com or call him at 510.456.3056 x169.

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