ACCA - The global body for professional accountants
The importance given to stakeholder communications therefore becomes increasingly vital as companies strive to be both relevant and more transparent to their audiences
—Darryl Wee, Country head, ACCA Singapore

New report also reveals that listed companies need to communicate better with their stakeholders.

More than half, or 63 per cent, of all annual general meetings (AGMs) conducted by companies listed on the Singapore Exchange are held in April, with 47 percent taking place in the last five business days of the month. This is according to the 'Making stakeholder communications work: Stakeholder Communication Study 2011/2012', jointly released today by ACCA and KPMG.

The report also reveals that 62 per cent of listed companies in Singapore which disclosed information on their investor relations (IR) function have just one person handling this function. The most common voluntary mode (91 per cent) for communication with shareholders is the company website.

Mr Tan Wah Yeow, Deputy Managing Partner and Head of Markets KPMG in Singapore, says: 'How companies communicate with investors and other stakeholders is one of the key pillars of corporate governance. Our study reveals that companies need to understand their investor profile well to improve the effectiveness of their stakeholder communications.'

He also noted: 'Having so many AGMs clustered into the last five working days of April may pose challenges for shareholders and directors with interests in multiple companies. Companies should be encouraged to adopt principles of fair communication. It is therefore important to choose the appropriate communication methods and channels which suit the pattern of their company's shareholdings.'

The report notes that as the market capitalisation of a company increased, the proportion of its small shareholders and the percentage of shares they collectively held increased. Among the companies studied, 70 per cent of the companies had a public float of 50 per cent and less. On average:

  • small shareholders comprise 56 per cent of all shareholders but only hold about 2 per cent of shares
  • large shareholders make up 2 per cent of shareholders on average but hold about 81 per cent of shares.

A six-element stakeholder communications framework was used to analyse stakeholder communications: Communication resources, modes, content, frequency, timeliness and quality.

Communication resources

There are four ways in which listed companies in Singapore handle their IR function. Some 67 per cent have an in-house IR function, 24 per cent outsource the IR function, 7 per cent co-source using a combination of in-house and outsourcing, and 2 per cent handle it via a parent company.

Foreign companies are more likely to outsource their IR function. About 40 per cent of foreign companies either out-source or co-source their IR function, compared to 25 per cent of local companies.

Among large capitalisation (cap) companies, two-thirds have a dedicated IR person, whilst the CFO is commonly responsible in small cap companies.

On the other hand, foreign companies were more likely to hire someone specifically to deal with investor relations while those with an IR role at a Singapore company typically had other important roles too.

Almost 47 per cent of companies did not disclose any IR contact information in their annual report

or website. Companies which want to improve communication with investors should provide details of a separate IR contact in their annual report or website, and preferably both. They also need to be responsive to queries.

Communication channels 

While the company website is used as a primary channel for communication with shareholders, large cap companies were more likely than small and mid cap companies to use a wider variety of other communication modes. Other than annual reports and periodic announcements on SGXNET, the most commonly used modes of communication were: company websites (91 per cent of companies); press releases (77 per cent), and email (34 per cent).

The five most common types of information found on company websites are corporate information, annual reports, results announcements, profiles of directors and the latest announcements.

Large cap companies were more likely to use a wide variety of communication modes compared to the small and mid cap companies. For large and mid cap companies, company website, press releases and analyst briefings are the three most common modes of communication which are not required by law or listing rules. For small cap companies, email replaces analyst briefings as third most common mode of communication.

Communication content

More than 20 per cent of companies with working websites do not put their annual reports or results announcements on these websites. A third of companies do not put the profile of their directors and 60 per cent do not put the profiles of their senior management on their websites.

The report noted that it is important to ensure that the IR function is accessible with IR contacts publicly disclosed in the annual report and website. The website should also be working effectively.

Large cap companies tend to disclose more supplementary information in their annual reports. For example, two-thirds of large cap companies disclosed information about their share price performance and 40 per cent disclosed their financial calendar for the next financial year. In comparison, only 4 per cent for both types of information were disclosed by small cap companies.

The highest percentages of companies reporting on sustainability are large cap companies and those from the transportation /storage /communications sector. Some 19 per cent of companies also included a sustainability section on their website and 17 percent in their annual report.

Communication frequency and timeliness

In our study, 27 per cent of the companies report semi-annually and 73 per cent reported quarterly. Small cap companies are, on average, the slowest in reporting their interim and annual results, and large cap companies the fastest to do so.

Most companies do not perceive the benefits of quarterly reporting to outweigh the costs, as they generally do not report quarterly unless it is mandatory.

On average, companies held their Annual General Meetings (AGM) 117 days after the financial year end and only 6 per cent provided a notice to shareholders exceeding the internationally recommended 28 days.

Communication quality

Few companies in the study announce semi-annual or quarterly results which have been reviewed or audited. Only 4 per cent of the companies disclosed that they had at least one of their quarterly results reviewed.

The report suggests that disclosures relating to results announcements, significant transactions

and trading activity need to be more closely monitored. Almost one-in-three companies received queries from the SGX about their results, with 32 per cent of these being queries for full-year results and 24 per cent being for quarterly results.

Companies need to take steps to minimise the risk of variances and hence queries from the SGX. They should ensure there are adequate internal or independent reviews of the results before its announcement.

Darryl Wee, Country Head, ACCA Singapore said: 'Ultimately, companies which are able to recognise the need for sophisticated stakeholder strategies will no doubt be a step ahead of their competitors. The importance given to stakeholder communications therefore becomes increasingly vital as companies strive to be both relevant and more transparent to their audiences.

'To improve stakeholder communications, an IR function should be sufficiently resourced, have adequate stature with reporting lines to senior management, and be closely involved with the strategic management of the business,' he concluded.

Notes to editors:

About Stakeholder Communication Study 2011/2012

This report aims to provide an insight into how companies listed on the Singapore Exchange communicate with stakeholders and other investors. To provide an analytical model for companies to assess the current state of their stakeholder communications and to benchmark this against other companies, a new Stakeholder Communications Framework which comprises the following six elements of stakeholder communications was developed:

  • communication resources
  • communication modes
  • communication content
  • communication frequency
  • communication timeliness
  • communication quality

The sample consists of 712 companies listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) as at 31 December 2011. The following companies are excluded: companies with a secondary listing on SGX, newly-listed companies, defined as those that have not held an annual general meeting since listing on SGX, companies that have not released any annual report during the calendar year 2011, companies that are under judicial management.

The data for the study were obtained from the following secondary sources:

  • latest annual report of the company as at 31 January 2012
  • company announcements to SGX from 1 January 2011 to 31 January 2012
  • company website

About ACCA

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. We support our 147,000 members and 424,000 students in 170 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. We work through a network of over 83 offices and centres and more than 8,500 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence. 

About KPMG in Singapore

KPMG in Singapore is a member of the KPMG global network of professional services firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. The independent member firms of the KPMG network operate in 152 countries and have more than 145,000 professionals worldwide. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such. 

For more information, please contact:

Michelle Seth-Langbein

Head of Marketing, ACCA Singapore

DID: +65 6637 8178

E-mail: Michelle.Seth-Langbein@accaglobal.com

Lisa Lim

Assistant Manager, Marketing & Communications, KPMG in Singapore

Tel: +65 6507 1519

E-mail: lisalim@kpmg.com.sg

Kelvin Lee

Associate Director, Marketing & Communications, KPMG in Singapore

Tel: +65 6507 1534

E-mail: kelvinlee1@kpmg.com.sg