Sometimes the best research is done in a slightly less than
Investors for the most part know that earnings drive stocks and
there is a wealth of information that can be gleaned from the
earnings conference call. There is also a wealth of information in
the 10Q's and 10K documents published by the company and available
at the Securities Exchange Commission website (www.sec.gov).
Those are great sources of detailed information on the company, but
where they excel in data they lack in story. Suffice it to say that
James Cameron or Steven Spielberg would want to present the
company, its history and potential in a different light.
Enter the idea of the investor conference presentation. A chance to
tell the story in a less formal setting than the earnings
conference call and certainly more colorful that any regulatory
document. These presentations can deliver the company history, the
present and the future in a way that helps new investors get a
better sense that just what comes on the earnings calls.
Investor conferences can be thematic in nature if they are put on
the bulge bracket, location based (think chip companies are mostly
in the Valley) or companies covered by the research department.
Most of the time these meetings are webcast live for individuals to
listen in. A presentation document may sometimes also accompany the
Recently I was at the Barrington Research conference at the Four
Seasons in Chicago IL. The conference brought in several regional
companies like Groupon & Orbitz, but also had out of state
visitors like Constant Contact and Pandora. Barrington also
provided a platform for some local private companies to tell their
story as well, a welcome innovation to a standard practice.
) presentation by CEO Barney Harford we heard a nice overview of
the company and some unique information that probably won't be
found on the 10Q or a conference call. Mr. Hardford noted that Mac
users spend $20 a day more than PC users when travelling. That
tidbit doesn't make Orbtiz a buy or a sell, but it a valuable piece
of information that might not have been conveyed in any other
For the lucky attendees, there is a chance to attend a break out
session for Q&A focused meeting. I had the chance to sit in on
three of those meetings at the Barrington Research Conference.
) CFO Steve Cakebread told an interesting story about running into
Little John at a Miami Heat basketball game and gave some good
insights on the music business.
) VP, Investor Relations & Corp Dev Finance provided insight
into the recent acquisitions the company has made and how they
track repeat customers. He was also intrigued by my proposal to
have their quarterly earnings calls recorded until CEO Andrew Mason
is a little more comfortable. Stay tuned to see if any dividends
are paid on that one.
) talked to institutional holders about how they increased ARPU by
$1 in the most recent quarter and how their new social media
product works with the overall strategy. Just hearing their
questions made the time spent well worth it.
The bulge bracket holds these conferences, and regular investors
are generally invited to those large scale events. Smaller events
are usually restricted to clients only, so check to make sure you
can get in before just showing up.
These conferences are learning opportunities. The tidbits you may
get on data or product usage can surprise you. The clarity on how a
product works on the client level can bring more faith to
management. The questions others ask can give insight on how they
are thinking about their current investments and how you might do
the same. Finally, you might learn that a CFO likes Abba, and
sometimes that's all you need to make a wise investment.
Brian Bolan is the Aggressive Growth Stock Strategist for
Zacks.com. He is also the Editor in charge of the
Run Investor service
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