Awards: highlights from Asia
The big surprise at the annual IR Magazine China Awards in Shanghai in December was China Merchants Bank. With six awards, the bank overtook Sinopec, last year’s big winner, in most of the state-owned enterprise (SOE) categories. China Vanke held its own in the non-SOE categories, with IRO Shirley Xiao on hand to carry home the grand prix.
By 2006, when China Merchants became the first Chinese bank to issue both A-shares and H-shares, it was already winning accolades in the domestic market. The H-share IPO made IR even more important, according to Qi Lan, China Merchants’ board secretary and head of IR. The bank added IR personnel familiar with English and foreign regulation, hired an IR consultant, began participating aggressively in broker-sponsored conferences and one-on-ones, and sent senior management on a global roadshow. This H-share push seems to be what brought China Merchants to the top of the awards ranking.
Lan says plans for 2008 include revamping the IR website home page, focusing on risk management and retail banking operations in the annual report, and targeting overseas investors. ‘Our chairman, president and other high-level management see IR as very important,’ he sums up.
At the IR Magazine Hong Kong & Taiwan Awards the following week, TSMC and Sun Hung Kai Properties held on to their large-cap grand prix for Taiwan and Hong Kong, respectively. A spokesperson for Sun Hung Kai confirms the company’s commitment to a high standard of transparency, attributing the grand prix to ‘seasoned management, good corporate governance and effective investor relations.’
Belle International and Walker Group, the large and small-cap winners of best IR for a Hong Kong IPO, were particularly jubilant. Gloria Qian, Belle’s IR manager, recounts how the company’s top management went to Hong Kong, Singapore, London, New York, Boston and San Francisco for their IPO roadshow in May 2007. ‘As a newly listed company, our IR department is trying its best to improve IR functions,’ she states.
Walker Group, a smaller-cap shoe retailer, took its roadshow to Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai. Eamon Chu, executive director and CFO, says Walker’s IR presentations support its ‘brand building’ push. ‘Slides and multimedia accompany live ‘catwalk’ presentations, and video and audio highlight our facilities and products,’ he notes.
Chu adds that Walker’s management was well prepared for going public, with a written corporate governance policy, a new independent non-executive director and an internal audit department. The firm doesn’t have a proper IR department, but a new legal and corporate governance team supports Chu and CEO Edmond Huang in their IR efforts.
Taking care of business
Governance has long been a focus for Hong Kong companies, but now environmental and social factors are getting more attention. For example, Yvonne Chan, corporate communications director at Solomon Systech, is planning an environmentally friendly annual report for 2008.
MTR, which ranked highly in the awards this year, published one of Asia’s first sustainability reports in 2002. ‘Sustainability drives our business,’ corporate finance manager Denise Kee told conference attendees. ‘I hope we will see more socially responsible investment flowing into Asia, but at the moment fund managers do not focus much on environmental, social and governance issues, and SRI investors are still very few. Unfortunately, money comes first and heart comes second.’ Kee won the award for best IRO at a Hong Kong company.
The last word must go to Dr Elizabeth Sun, the long-standing and frequent award winner from TSMC. ‘Every year I come here and I meet many new IR officers, and I see how wonderful and competent they are,’ she told the crowd of more than 300. ‘Across the Asian community and especially in Hong Kong and Taiwan, we have made a lot of progress. I’m very proud of everybody here; I’m proud that we share the same profession.’
Get the full story
IR Magazine commissioned TNS Honk Kong to ask 375 portfolio managers and buy and sell-site analysts across Asia for their award nominations. Shortlists for all awards categories and verbatim comments on the top firms are published in the Investor Perception Study, Asia 2007/2008, available for $395 from Cross Border Ltd. The report can be bought and a full list of the winning companies found at www.irmagazinechina.com or www.irmagazinehongkong.com.