Warsaw Stock Exchange

Introduction

100 years in waiting, the successful IPO of the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE) saw a core team of four individuals working on a transaction spanning five continents, with four global co-ordinating banks, nine further joint book runners, three law firms, a Ministerial vendor and a senior management team.

•    $423m raised and priced above initial price range
•    25 times oversubscribed by institutional investors
•    Shares traded at an 18% premium on the first day or dealings

Background

Poland: a nation proud of its entrepreneurial spirit. Founded in the early years of 19th Century, in a Warsaw often referred to as the ‘Paris of the East’, the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE) closed in 1939 at the beginning of the Second World War. During several decades of communist rule the Exchange remained closed. In a move steeped in symbolism, the Exchange reopened in the former HQ of the Communist Party in 1991 in an effort to rebuild Polish capital markets.

The Exchange’s IPO, 20 years later, marked a historic milestone in the privatisation process of Polish state industries, and in the positioning of Warsaw as the capital markets hub for Central and Eastern Europe.

Within seven working days of receiving the RFP, writing two rounds of proposals and pitching in Warsaw, on 10th August 2010 College Hill was mandated to lead the international communications for the IPO of the Warsaw Stock Exchange on the Warsaw Stock Exchange.  

The project concluded three months later on 9th November, with the first day of dealings and an 800 person Gala celebration hosted by the Ministry of the Treasury and the Warsaw Stock Exchange and attended by both the Prime Minister and President of Poland.

 
Our Brief

The brief was to develop and execute a communications strategy that would generate excitement and interest around the IPO, highlight the Exchange’s investment case, clearly communicate the continued development of the region as a free-market economy and optimise international investment opportunities.  

There were a number of specific challenges including:

•    A desire to promote Poland as a growing economic force, alongside the WSE transaction
•    To position WSE as the clear market leader, despite the CEESEG group of stock exchanges, owner of the Vienna Bourse, attempts to claim this title
•    The first time a Ministry of the Treasury privatisation had sought to reach out to the international media
•    A three pronged offering to international institutional investors, domestic Polish institutional investors and Polish retail investors
•    A cynical international media, fresh from a poorly received Ocado IPO, combined with no consistent track record of capital raisings since the economic crisis and “Nervy” international capital markets
•    A management team with very limited profile outside its domestic market
•    Busy diary commitments of the three major spokespeople, one of whom did not speak English: Aleksander Grad, The Minister of the Polish Treasury, Ludwik Sobolewski, Chief Executive of WSE, and Krzysztof Walenczak, Under Secretary of State to the Polish Ministry of the Treasury
•    Very restrictive publicity guidelines in force for the transaction meant limited broadcast, online and print distribution
•    Co-ordinating four local PR agencies mandated to undertake domestic media relations

Our Approach

•    To position WSE as the pre-eminent stock exchange in CEE and an emerging regional financial hub with a clear investment case

Working with the management team and other advisors, College Hill devised a media campaign communicating  key messages in all relevant markets; dovetailing with the IPO timetable and ‘business as usual’ calendar events.

Preparatory phase:

To successfully deliver WSE’s story, key business messages and financial opportunities, it was imperative to prepare for and address the specific challenges outlined above.  Senior management talks were arranged where issues were addressed head-on and positioning agreed for vital analyst and investor presentations. A broad range of media briefing materials were developed including speeches, presentations and Q&As.

Media platform events:

Simultaneously, the team devised a programme of high profile opportunities from which to build awareness of WSE as CEE’s financial hub and to highlight its key role in Poland’s privatisation programme among targeted international print, online, broadcast and trade media. These included:

•    Krynica Economic Forum –WSE CEO Ludwik Sobolewski and Minister Aleksander Grad - the first official ‘curtain raiser’  announcing the IPO was on track for Q4 2010
•    Visit of Duncan Niederauer, CEO of NYSE Euronext – building on WSE’s strategic partnership with the US exchange
•    International Investor Roadshow – co-ordinating closely with the advisors, we used our spokespeople’s presence in major financial centres across Europe to arrange briefings with leading European business publications
•    London media day – overcoming the challenge of gaining traction in the UK specialist media and nationals, organisation of a series of 1:2:1 media briefings for CEO Ludwik Sobolewski and a media lunch for 12 influential specialist financial journalists
•    Transaction announcements including inter alia the Intention to Float – the ‘bread and butter’ of a major transaction, working with the advisors and the Company, we led the drafting of these announcements, and distribution to an international audience leveraging our media relationships and developing those of the WSE
•    First day of dealing / Capital Markets Gala – the final opportunity to convey the message behind the financial success of the transaction; that Warsaw was increasingly the hub of the capital markets in CEE.

Results

•    The issue raised PLN1.2bn ( $423million) and was priced above its price range
•    IPO was 25 times oversubscribed, an outstanding result for an IPO.
•    WSE shares rose more than 18% on the first day of trading
•    Institutional investors from 30 countries across five continents participated in the transaction
•    Over 100 pieces of international media coverage were generated  - highlights including several positive articles in the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Independent on Sunday, Les Echo, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Finanz und Wirtschaft, Bloomberg, Dow Jones, Reuters, London Evening Standard, CityAM, Express on Sunday, International Financial Review, FOW, The Trade and BNE to name a few.

Evaluation

In line with the brief, College Hill:

•    Secured ‘on message’ coverage in all target publications across Western Europe and beyond
•    Successfully communicated WSE’s business strategy and superior technological offering
•    Promoted discussion on the financial upside of the Stock Exchange IPO
•    Contributed to a strong international investor base
•    Placed Warsaw as the hub of CEE capital markets, ensured WSE secured market leading position in CEE, consistently placing it ahead of Vienna
•    A letter of thanks was received from the Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of the Treasury, Krzysztof Walenczak

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