Conference CallAnalyzing Firms
A conference call is the primary point of communication between investors and executives who run the company. They occur every quarter and even if investors cannot hear the live conversation (or gain access to it). they are usually recorded for later listening and potentially download. You can contact a firm’s investment relations department to retrieve them if not easily accessible via their website. Questions are typically asked by large investors or financial analysts assigned to the firm’s coverage by Wall Street or Institutional Investors, and most private investors can only listen. However, this is better than receiving news later from a newspaper, as tone, word selection, and confidence in delivery can potentially reveal soft spots in the firm.
What should an investor be aware of? As previously stated, when listening to certain news, pay specific attention to contradictions, weaknesses in tone, confusing phrasing, or emotional weakness on certain topics, these topics may deserve investigation. Pay attention to their reactions or avoidance or rushing through specific topics, especially when they lack the convincing tone which confident management has when confronted. This is one way to determine how management regards each other, investors, and the investment.
On April 17th, 2001, executive Enron manager Jeff Skilling was handling a public conference call with many public analysts. An analyst from Highfields Capital named Richard Grubman joined the conference call and requested, for the sixth time, a balance sheet and earnings statement for the entire firm. Grubman reminded Skilling that the firm had failed to provide a balance sheet and cash flow statement, at which point Skilling flustered and stated “You. You. You. …Well, uh. Thank you very much, we appreciate it. Asshole.”
Less than 9 months later Enron no longer existed, and neither did the investments and loans in the firm made by millions of people. Pay attention to conference calls. Attempt to assess personality and match them to character traits. Dates for these calls are typically given in advance, but again, they can usually (almost always) be retrieved from the company afterward in their unedited form.
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